UAE detains 3,000 Indian workers over camp riot

Posted on July 9, 2008


Arab News
ABU DHABI: Around 3,000 Indian workers were detained at an undisclosed location on the outskirts of the UAE capital on charges of arson and rioting.

The workers of a large ceramics manufacturing unit in the emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah were rounded up by security agencies after they went on a rampage at their labor camp on Friday night to protest the poor living conditions and low wages.

Indian ambassador to the UAE, Talmiz Ahmed, confirmed on phone that employees of RAK Ceramics indulged in arson by burning vehicles and destroying furniture and are now under arrest.

Although not all of the nearly 3,000 workers were involved in the fracas, the police took all of them to Abu Dhabi and Dubai in army vehicles.

Indian Embassy sources said most of the workers were from the states of Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

While there have been strikes by foreign workers in the past in the UAE over poor working conditions and unpaid salaries that have led to the riot squad being called in, this is the first time the UAE Army has been pressed into service to arrest rioting workers.

Confirming the detention of the Indians, Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi said in New Delhi that his department “is in touch with the UAE authorities”. There were people of other nationalities, too, involved in the rioting, he said. “We are trying our best to get the Indians released. The labor officer attached to the Indian Consulate is in constant touch with the UAE officials.”

The workers have been questioned and their fingerprints taken. Those found to be involved in the violence will be deported after serving their prison terms, a source said.

Talmiz Ahmed said “the workers went on a rampage at their camp over poor quality of food served to them.” He added that he wasn’t aware of the exact number of workers detained.