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Monday, August 16, 1999 Published at 19:29 GMT 20:29 UK

World: Middle East

UAE bars Indian, Pakistani labourers

The problem of foreign labour has long vexed the UAE government

By correspondent Barbara Plett

The United Arab Emirates has stopped issuing new visas to manual labourers from India and Pakistan.

Foreigners make up the bulk of the workforce in the UAE and the majority are from India and Pakistan.

Rumours of a freeze on Asian labour began circulating last month but according to local newspapers the ban is not as extensive as some had feared.

Labour official Mohammad Issa al-Suwaidi told the Gulf News that the UAE had a surplus of unskilled workers from India and Pakistan and that many were unemployed.

[ image: The economy is dependent on Asian manual labour]
The economy is dependent on Asian manual labour
He said the government had issued a ban on new visas for manual labourers from these countries so that those already present would have a chance to find a job.

But he said the ban did not include skilled Indian and Pakistani workers, and that they would still be given visas if they submitted certificates showing their professional qualifications.

The visa restrictions do not appear to include other manual labourers from South Asia.

They also do not seem to be connected to a government campaign aimed at employing more nationals.

About 90% of the workers in the UAE are expatriates and the authorities want to change that.

In recent years they have promoted an affirmative action policy of employing locals ahead of foreigners but the drive does not apply to unskilled labour.

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