Friday, April 2, 2010

Random News Generator- UAE

Let's try something new today. I have a list of countries, territories and whatnot. It numbers 230. I'm going to have a number randomly chosen, and then we'll cover a piece of news from that location. If context must be provided, so be it.

I introduce the Random News Generator, which today lands on... the United Arab Emirates.

And for that, off to Jalandhar, where 17 Indian nationals have been sentenced to death for the murder of a Pakistani during a fight and are currently asking for- and recieving- assistance from the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, and Muslim religious leaders. As it stands, 11 days remain to file a formal appeal, though nothing can be done until at least Sunday due to a bereavement in the Indian royal family. The 17, 16 of them from the state of Punjab, maintain their innocence.

According to the accusation, these 17 were part of a metal bar-wielding mob, fighting for control of a liquor business in January 2009. They are also accused of selling some of that liquor in and around Al-Sajaa, a local labor camp. In the emirate of Sharjah, where this happened, liquor is illegal and sharia law is in effect.

According to one of the group, Aravinder Singh, ""We don't know anything about the fight. We just used to work in Dubai as labourers for whatever little we got. At 2:30 in the night police arrested us and asked us to sit silent. After 3 days in jail, we were told of the case against us. When we said that we haven't committed the crime, they asked us to remain silent. I was kept with my brother with 7 days and then separated. I was told that I have been sentenced for 3 months and then I will be sent to India,"

Foreign workers in the UAE have few rights. There are so many foreign workers that Arab nationals make up only 16.5% of the population; in Dubai, the number is only 5%. Locals feel their culture threatened by the massive numbers of foreigners, both workers and tourists, coming to the UAE. This case comes amid a growing push to reclaim cultural control.

The workers are attracted to the UAE on the promise of an easy life, a tolerant nation, great weather, and the proximity of wealth. But once there, they often find themselves having been lied to. Forced to sign on much worse terms than promised, workers are underpaid- if paid at all- in debt via recruiting fees, and unable to speak or read the language, become citizens, form unions, strike, obtain quality healthcare, or even quit, as their passports have been taken by their employer. Steps have been taken to improve the situation, but the measures are small, such as a booklet handed out to workers to inform them of the rights they do have.

We'll see how it turns out for the 17.

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