Sep 29, 2008

New UAE visa rules leave hundreds stranded

Buraimi/Dubai: Hundreds of people, most of them Filipinos, are stranded in Oman and Iran after they failed to renew their visit visa, following new UAE visa regulations that took effect in July.

Buraimi in Oman and Kish Island in Iran are popular exit points for UAE visitors to repeatedly renew their visit visas after they expire. However, the visa rules state that those who wish to obtain a fresh visit visa to the UAE must leave for one month before being issued another visa.

The new regulations were implemented to prevent the abuse of the visit visa system, which many have used to enter the UAE to find jobs or work illegally.

Almost 700 Filipinos have been stranded as early as August, according to two travel agencies dealing with visit visa runs, not counting those from other travel agencies.

Wilma, from Al Hedaya Travel and Tourism, told they continued the visa runs, saying they were not informed of the new regulations directly and how this would affect their clients.

"We kept sending people out of the country because we did not want them to overstay and pay the penalty. We later found out they could not come back," she said.

Emilia Bunoan, from Al Safa Tourism, agreed. "We didn't know they were going to be rejected. Most of them are Filipinos."

Although many of the Filipinos talked to in Buraimi fell into the job-seeker or illegal worker category, a few did not.

Benito Valeriano, Philippine Consul-General in Dubai, told he could not intervene on behalf of the stranded Filipinos in Buraimi and Kish as they were outside his jurisdiction.

"My advice to them is to seek assistance from our embassy in the countries where they are stranded. They will assess [their] case and if [they] cannot return to the UAE, they will be assisted to return to the Philippines," he said.

He added the Filipinos' plight has served as a wake-up call to many Filipinos, who have been coming into the UAE on visit visas to look for a job or work without legalising their status.

Ajman authorities give a hand to man stranded at airport

Sharjah: The Ajman Naturalisation and Residency Department on Sunday morning helped to resolve the troubles of a Palestinian man who had been stranded at Sharjah Airport for a week over the status of his visit visa.

Senior officials from the department told, humanitarian reasons had been taken into account while issuing a new visit visa to Ayman Zaqout since he could not return to his home in Gaza following the closure of the Rafah crossing.

"The law is clear that people should leave the country for one month after the expiry of their visit visa in order to be able to be issued another one, said an official.

Trip to hospital

"We are keen to help people. Zaqout needed help, so we worked on issuing him a visa the moment we came to know about his ordeal, he said, urging people to be aware of the law and to stay within its purview to avoid such problems.

After leaving the airport at 4am, Zaqout went to a hospital to get treatment for a problem on one hand.

"I appreciate the efforts of the officials at Ajman residency department who helped me in my ordeal," he said.

Zaqout was detained at Sharjah airport after returning to the country from a visa run to a neighbouring country.

Zaqout's sponsor who had applied for a visa for him at the Ajman residency department was initially told that Zaqout needed to leave the country for one month after the expiry of his old visa in order to be eligible for a new one.

Sep 25, 2008

New Police Body to Tackle Cases of Human Rights Violations

All Human rights violation cases earlier reported to the Human Rights Department at Dubai Police, will now be dealt by a newly - established Dubai Community Development Authority (DCDA) set up under the directives of His Highness Shaikh MOhammed bin RAshid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. This was stated by Major-General Khamis Matar Al Mazeina, Deputy Commandant-General of Dubai Police, in his address to the media at a Ramadan Majlis held on Monday at the Dubai Press Club.

Al Mazeina explained that the family security department, social services programmes, Training and Drug Rehabilitation Centre at Dubai Police will all operate under the aeigis of the DCDA, an entity mandated to enhance social development and national identity, as well as strengthen the role of citizens in society.

Al Mazeina said that the UAE is totally free from political crimes and the country does not have a single political prisoner, said Major-General Khamis Matar Al Mazina, Deputy Commandant-General of Dubai Police.

Drawing attention to the globalisation of crimes and the way modern telecommunications were being used in facilitating international criminal networks, Al Mazina said Dubai Police were constantly upgrading strategies to keep pace with the developments.

“The opening up of Dubai as an international hub is a positive development. It has helped us gain more experience and to interact with policing professionals from around the world. A platonic, idealistic city cannot exist in the real world and, as such, Dubai indeed witnesses some crimes. But compared to any other city similar in the size and composition of its population, Dubai fairs extremely well,” he asserted.

Dismissing some of the ethnic prejudices in relation to crimes, Al Mazeina said the crime rate among some Asian nationalities was higher than others only because their percentage among the total population was also higher.

“You cannot relate crimes committed by people to their nationalities. I believe that the diversity of cultures and nationalities does not constitute a threat to the law and order mechanism,” he pointed out.

Reiterating that Dubai Police did not seek to suppress media freedom, Al Mazeina said media organisations were absolutely free to pursue their policies in terms of reporting and analysing the happenings here.

Answering a specific question on alleged manipulation by the police of reporting accidents, Al Mazeina vehemently denied the charge and said it was unfair on the part of the media to have such perceptions.

“We go out of our way to facilitate the work of the media in relation to their coverage of police affairs. We do not withhold information. We are totally transparent in sharing information with the media and we never turn our back on them,” he pointed out, thanking the media organisations in the country for their cooperation and support.

UAE has a Green Earth Mission

By Zoe Sinclair

Dubai: Oofrish Contractor is one of more than 20,000 residents who have already committed to standing up for a green UAE on October 17, 18, and 19.

The event, Mission Green Earth - Stand Up and Take Action 2008, hopes to see one million UAE residents do just that, to remind the government of the targets they pledged in the United Nations Millenium Development Goals.

Rugmani Prabhakar, spokesperson for Mission Green Earth - Stand Up and Take Action 2008, said the organisers, including the Art of Living (AOL) and the International Association for Human Values (IAHV), were confident one million UAE residents would participate.“It’s happening wherever you are. Just assemble at your school or business, take a photo and send it to us,” she said. “It needs to happen. People need to realise ‘This is my responsibility’.” The campaign’s website, missiongreenearth.ae has seen 3,700 register to stand up and nearly 600 to plant trees, since the site’s launch on Tuesday.

However Mission Green Earth Logistics Coordinator Vanya Vorab said verbal commitments have raised the number to more than 20,000 residents.

Oofrish Contractor aims to motivate 150 people in her office alone, as well as encourage neighbouring businesses, to “stand up and take action”.

“In my early life I was not aware of the environment,” she said. “But now I live in the Springs and they collect cans and recycle everything. Over one week I collected three bags of recycled cans. When someone makes you aware of it, you realise your toll on the environment.” Contractor also plans to approach the property managers of her office block to organise tree planting.

Siva Shenbagan, another participant, said raising awareness of such issues was vital.

“Possibly our generation has had the worst effect on the environment. We need to give something back to the earth,” Shenbagan said.

“When the 50 people in our office stand up, they are also raising awareness among their family and their kids. So the thinking process goes on to the next generation.”

The campaign will be held under the patronage of UN Messenger of Peace Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, wife of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

One-week Eid holidays for schools, DNRD open

Dubai: All educational institutions in the UAE will remain closed for one week including Sunday, September 28, which is a working day for the public and private sectors, the Ministry of Education announced. They will reopen on Sunday, October 5.

"Schools will only have vacation on that day while the employees of the Ministry in Abu Dhabi and Dubai as well as the education zones will resume their duties regularly on that day," said an official at the Ministry of Education. Students and schools welcomed the decision saying it will help them organise their vacations better.

Meanwhile, all the the Naturalisation and Residency Department offices will remain open during the Eid holidays from September 29 to October 5 in line with directives from Lieutenant General Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Interior Minister.

Special work schedules for employees have been drawn out in an effort to give maximum support for the clients.

Brigadier Nasser Al Minhali, Acting Director of the department, said that the counters would work daily from 10am to 1pm to facilitate transactions.

Sep 22, 2008

Dubai departments to have day care centres

All Dubai government departments employing a significant number of female employees with young children will have to offer day care service under a government programme to be enforced by the end of April.

Spearheaded by the president of the Dubai Women's Establishment, Shaikha Manal Bint Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the programme has been approved by the Executive Council, said Mona Al Merri, Chairperson of the Board of Directors at the Dubai Women's Establishment.

"We conducted a survey and found that 30 per cent of women quit their jobs when they have children because they don't have access to child care centres," she said, adding that this move will ensure that female talent is not lost in government departments.

The Executive Council will officially announce the required measures in April and it will be enforced by the end of the month, said Mona.

"We understand that there might be problems with space and that it may take some time".

The day care centres will be designed to cater to children up to the age of three, and will also have an educational function, like pre-schools, she added, noting that departments will be given incentives to establish the centres by the government in the future.

Young and Arab in land of mosques and bars

By Michael Slackman- The Newyork Times

U.A.E. to sell dollars for euros

ABU DHABI: The United Arab Emirates plans to convert 8 percent of its foreign-exchange reserves to euros from dollars before September, the latest sign of growing global disaffection with the weakening U.S. currency.

The U.A.E. has started, "in a limited way," to sell part of its dollar reserves, the governor of the country's central bank, Sultan Bin Nasser al-Suwaidi, said in an interview. "We will accumulate euros each time the market appears to dip" as part of a plan to expand the country's holding of euros to 10 percent of the total from the current 2 percent.

The Gulf state is among oil producers, including Iran, Venezuela and Indonesia, looking to shift their currency reserves into euros or sell their oil, which is now priced in dollars, for euros. The total value of the reserves held by the U.A.E. is $24.9 billion, Suwaidi said.

The dollar has fallen more than 10 percent this year against the euro.

But fears that the dollar's level is unsustainable because of the heavy indebtedness of the United States to other countries is also behind the weakness this year, analysts said.

The shift to euros underscores its growing role as a reserve currency nearly eight years after its establishment. Central banks often keep the details about their currency holdings a secret.

The move by the U.A.E. central bank "is hard evidence that diversification is happening," said Shaun Osborne, chief currency strategist at TD Securities in Toronto. "This is negative for the dollar in a broad sense as it reflects falling confidence in the currency."

Central banks in Russia, Switzerland and New Zealand are also diversifying away from the dollar and into yen after the Japanese currency reached a 10- month low against its biggest trading partners in October.

Gulf Arab energy producers will earn as much as $500 billion from oil sales this year, the International Monetary Fund forecasts. The region's central bank reserves represent a fraction of the currency holdings of state-owned investment firms like the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, which is estimated to have more than $500 billion under management.

But the signal that such a move sends to financial markets is a negative one.

"It is a recognition of the vulnerability of the dollar over the coming year," Simon Williams, an economist with HSBC Holdings, said by phone from Dubai.

The euro rose to $1.3123 from $1.3098 after Suwaidi's comments were published Wednesday.

"This is not confined to the U.A.E. There's a general awareness across the Gulf of the benefits of diversifying currency holdings," Williams said.

The U.S. current account deficit widened to $225.6 billion in the third quarter. Oil producers in the Middle East and Central Asia will run a surplus of $322 billion for all of 2006, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Total foreign holdings of U.S. Treasury securities — which generally support the dollar — increased to a record $2.16 trillion in September, just under half of the $4.34 trillion outstanding.

Part of the reason for the decline is the outlook for slower U.S. growth, which makes the dollar a less attractive investment.

Sep 20, 2008

UAE lifts ban on Somali sheep, goats

The ban on imports of sheep and goats from Somali cities of Bosaso and Barbara was lifted yesterday by a resolution by Minister of Water and Environment Dr. Rashid Ahmed Bin Fahad. Accordingly, any sheep and goat shipments from the said Somali areas have to be coming directly from the designated quarantines. The resolution demands the castration of male sheep and goats, an import licence, a certificate of origin, health certificate issued by relevant veterinarian authorises stating that the sheep and goats were quarantined no less than 7 days at the relevant facilities at Bosaso and Barbara sea ports. It also demands valid certificates from laboratories stating that the sheep and goats are free from rift valley fever, foot and mouth disease and other diseases. Vaccination of sheep should take place at least 21 days before shipping date and detailed data on vaccinations should be clearly stated. – Emirates News Agency, WAM

Expat workers can start own business

Workers and professionals can now start their own businesses without losing their jobs or changing their visas, said a top official at the Ministry of Labour. Humaid bin Deemas, Acting General Manager of the Ministry, told that the decision was taken by Minister of Labour HE Saqr Ghobash on Wednesday. It will allow expatriates who work in the private sector to set up their own business or become partners in a new company. This decision replaces the old rule obligating any expatriate worker who wanted to start his business to cancel his visa and labour card at the ministry and get an investor visa. Bin Deemas said that the new decision would open more opportunities for workers in the country. Expatriates who start their own business will, however, will not be allowed to work in the companies they set up with local partners. ‘The minister also endorsed a decision to streamline the rules of sponsorship transfer,' said Bin Deemas. According to the new decision, the ministry will transfer sponsorship between firms owned by one sponsor if branches of the firms are based in the same emirate for a charge of Dh500 per application. The ministry can, therefore, endorse the sponsorship transfer without referring to the current sponsor if the employer has delayed salaries for at least two months. Another ministerial decision obligates all firms in the country, recruiting more than 100 employees, to hire their public relations officers from among UAE or GCC nationals. Bin Deemas said the ministry will not accept any application from these firms if the PROs do not meet these new terms and conditions. GCC nationals who work as PROs are allowed to work in other firms owned by the same person.

Sep 17, 2008

Dusty weather to will help bring down temperatures in UAE

Dubai: North-Westerly winds will continue to kick up dust in most of the Emirates on Wednesday reducing visibility but will help bring down temperatures to around 37 degrees Celsius, according to the Dubai met office. While it is not as hot compared to the seasonal average this month, humidity is running at a very high at 80 degrees plus, making it uncomfortable, said Dr S.K. Gupta, duty forecaster. There is a strong chance of early morning fog in Ras Al Khaimah on Wednesday and low clouds developing over Dubai, making it overcast over the emirate. The scattered clouds will hover at around 2000 metres. The dust reduced visibility to 500 meters on Tuesday afternoon and there was early morning fog in Sharjah, Dr. Gupta said.

Things are going to hot up again on Thursday and Friday when the South-Easterly winds come inland and the temperature will go up to 41 degrees Celsius. But it will dry up on Friday with humidity levels going down.

UAE names female envoys

Dubai: Shaikha Najla Mohammad Al Qasimi has been nominated as the UAE's Ambassador to Sweden. The decision was approved by the Cabinet meeting chaired by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, on Monday. In the same meeting, Hussa Al Otaiba was named as the UAE's Ambassador to Spain. In a statement to the Al Bayan daily newspaper, Shaikha Najla said she is grateful to the trust placed in her by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Shaikh Mohammad.

Ramadan violators penalised Dh1,000

Dubai: A salesman and a female visitor who publicly drank juice during daytime in Ramadan were each fined Dh1,000 for breaking article 313 of the Federal Penal Code. The Dubai Court of Misdemeanours found 30-year-old Lebanese salesman, S.O., and 28-year-old Russian woman, O.D., guilty of violating the Federal Penal Code, thus marking the first verdict of its kind since Ramadan started on September 1 this year. The couple were caught publicly drinking juice in the waiting room of an Eppco station before iftar. The duo pleaded not guilty and asked for leniency as they were non-Muslims and were unaware that their act was punishable by law here.

Offence

A Public Prosecution source explained that eating or drinking in public before sunset during Ramadan is classified as a crime, which offends religious faith and rituals. The punishment against such a crime is a maximum one month imprisonment or a maximum Dh2,000 fine.........it depends on the judge's discretion," said the source.

An Arab witness, identified as T., spotted the couple drinking juice in a station. He reported them to the police, who referred the duo to court. The ruling is still subject to appeal.

Sep 15, 2008

'Eid in Dubai' to focus on UAE and GCC residents in first year

Dubai: "Eid in Dubai" celebration, which has been organised by the Dubai Shopping Festival Office (DSFO), is primed to boost the tourism sector.

"During Eid, there is a jump in travellers around the world as people look for destinations to visit during this holiday. With all activities planned for Dubai during this period, it will be one of the key destinations," Laila Sohail, chief executive of DSFO said.

She added that the organisation's objective is to promote Dubai as a top destination during Eid with the help of such events and activities. In the first year, the "focus will be on the UAE and GCC residents to celebrate Eid as one of our religious festivals," she said.

Dilip Waghaye, resident manager at Ramada Hotel said that occupancy rate in hotels in Dubai during the summer has been the lowest in many years. "Many hotels had extremely high rates in the summer and many people left looking for cheaper rates," Waghaye said.

He added that Ramadan particularly sees a low number of guests. The new initiative is coming at an opportune time.

"Eid in Dubai is an excellent idea. I'm sure it will generate a lot of demand and people will have more of a reason to come to Dubai. The GCC market particularly is going to fill this place up," he said.

He adds a word of caution, saying, "I only hope that hotel rates here are not out-priced by other destinations, such as those in the Far East."

An Emirates spokesperson said in a statement, "Dubai Government's tourism initiatives have always been strategic, carefully designed and have had tremendous success in boosting tourism. Emirates supports the new retail and entertainment initiative 'Eid in Dubai' and will align our operations to support the objectives of the government and the programme."

"The festivities will extend for three days each around the Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha, offering shows, activities and events revolving around the cultural and religious aspect of how the holiday is celebrated in Dubai," Laila said.

Meanwhile, Laila said that within the next two years, the month of Ramadan will compliment Dubai Summer Surprises activities. "We will re-work the content and strategy of DSS accordingly," she said "We might even have a Ramadan version of DSS."

UAE shares recoil in Merrill, Lehman aftermath

Dubai: UAE shares along with all leading Gulf stocks reported substantial losses on Monday as the financial turmoil pushed Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. into bankruptcy and Merrill Lynch & Co. to accept a takeover from Bank of America Corp.

The Dubai Financial Market General Index retreated for the fourth day, shedding 1.71 per cent to 4044.27 at close.

The Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange General Index lost 4.35 per cent ending at 3754.49. Qatar's Doha Securities Market Index declined for the fourth day, retreating 6.4 per cent.

Emaar fell 1.77 per cent to Dh7.21, the lowest since April 2005. Emirates NBD, the UAE’s biggest bank by assets, dropped 4.95 per cent to Dh9.21.

Qatar Industries, the largest publicly traded company in Doha, fell 9.1 per cent to 116 riyals, the lowest since September 2007.

Across the Gulf markets reacted to the banking crisis unfolding in the in US.

In Saudi Arabia the Tadawul fell 6.94 per cent as Qatar’s DSM index and Kuwait’s key indices fell 6.8 per cent and 4.25 per cent, respectively

Stocks in Europe and Asia tumbled, while US futures and the dollar slumped. News agencies reported that American International Group Inc. is seeking a $40 billion bridge loan from the Federal Reserve.

Stock indexes fell more than 3 per cent in France, Spain, Taiwan, the Philippines and India. Standard & Poor's 500 Index futures expiring in December retreated 2.9 per cent to 1,220.20.

Lehman, once the fourth-largest US investment bank, filed for bankruptcy after Barclays Plc and Bank of America abandoned talks to buy the crippled firm.

Bank of America agreed to acquire Merrill Lynch & Co., the world's biggest brokerage firm, for about $50 billion.

Have you been affected by the recent slump of UAE shares? Tell us your story.

Sep 13, 2008

Setting sail with gusto

Abu Dhabi: To say that sailing is a popular sport in the UAE, is to state the obvious.Thanks to the country's beautiful beaches and top-class facilities, sailing enthusiasts can enjoy a great day out in the water. Sailing, as a sport, is indeed thriving in the UAE. Becoming a member of a sailing club gives you access to the equipment, activities, events - and the sea. Sailing clubs are scattered around the emirates and offer a wide variety of watersport activities such as windsurfing, kayaking and parasailing. In addition, one can enjoy jet ski in selected clubs and areas designated for the sport.

One of the oldest sailing clubs in the UAE is the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club (DOSC), launched in 1974. From a humble beginning - when all the club had were an icebox, a barrasti shade on the beach and a few boats - it has grown and developed into one of the main sailing centres in the emirates.

Non-profit body

The unique thing about the DOSC is that it is a non-profit organisation whose principal aim is to provide opportunities to sailors of all nationalities.

There are many sailing opportunities to choose from, no matter whether you are a beginner or a seasoned sailor.

If you happen to be a beginner and wish to learn the basics of the sport, you can walk into the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Training Centre, where qualified instructors will guide you through the various routines associated with the sport.

On the other hand, if you are a qualified sailor, you can sign up for the DOSC's dinghy or cruiser. The club also conducts several sailing competitions.

Another very useful club is the Jebel Ali Sailing Club (JASC) which is affiliated to the Dubai International Marine Club (DIMC) - the emirate's watersports headquarters.

The Abu Dhabi Sailing Club is another interesting establishment. Founded in the 1960s, the club is a great venue for sailing enthusiasts. Experienced sailors can test their skills against a variety of winds and tides that the Arabian Gulf throws up.

The UAQ Tourist Club in Sharjah's Flamingo Beach Resort is situated in the old part of the town, on the lagoon. It offers sailing in all types of boats, including catamarans, glass-bottomed boats for viewing the coral reefs and a dhow for sea trips.

Hotels and beach clubs throughout the UAE also provide recreational sailing for visitors.

Places to go sailing

Dubai Offshore Sailing Club

P.O. Box 11881
Dubai
Fax: 04 394 1596
Tel: 04 394 1669
Website: http://dosc.ae/

Jebel Ali Sailing Club
Jebel Ali
Dubai Marina
Tel: 04 399 5444
Dubai International Marine Club
Tel: 04 399 4111
Website:
www.dimc-uae.com/english

Abu Dhabi Sailing Club — Mina Sadiyat
P.O. Box 658
Abu Dhabi
Telephone: 02 673 1111
Fax: 02 673 1113
Website:
www.abudhabisailing.com

Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club
Tel: 02 681 5566
Website: www.adsmf.com

UAQ Tourist Club Sharjah
The Flamingo Beach Resort
Tel: 06 767 0000
Website:
www.flaming1@emirates.net.ae

'Glorious private parking' in Sharjah gone to waste

Dubai: Tumbleweeds are the only objects moving in the Al Jeidi Al Qasimia building parking lot in Sharjah. "Two levels of glorious private parking" is what David Baldwin thought when he moved into his new apartment, but there is one small problem ... cars cannot enter. When 51-year-old Baldwin happily drove to the car elevator to go up to his new parking spot a year ago, he noticed a chain across the elevator with a note saying "No parking". Baldwin did not mind and drove around the building to find the ramp leading to the parking - but there was none. Baldwin told: "The parking lots are on the first and second floors, so how can you go to the parking area if there are no facilities to take you there?" Walid Al Juma, another resident of the building, said: "When I first moved in, they told me not to pay for parking yet, as it was still under maintenance. One year on, I guess they are still fixing it!"

Misleading information

Baldwin said: "The lights in the parking lots are on every night to show passers-by that the building has parking. "Apparently, according to 38-year-old Al Juma, the car elevator does not work because the building does not have permission to operate an elevator. "They probably forgot to put a second elevator, which is a requirement for buildings. "We have the parking spaces, we just can't reach them," Baldwin said. Abdullah Al Jaedi, the building overseer on behalf of the landlord, told that the elevator has to be changed, but did not have any information on when it would be fixed. Baldwin has to find parking every night outside his apartment building in empty sand lots, which could result in him being fined. "I am still waiting for a solution so that I can finally park in my rightful spot, but I do not see that happening soon," Baldwin said.

Sep 11, 2008

Banks in UAE warn customers of card fraud

Dubai: Shannon Lowe, an expatriate living in Al Barsha, Dubai, is one of the growing number of victims of card fraud that has occurred in the past few days in the UAE, and several banks are warning their customers and advising them to take precautions.

"My debit card was copied either at the Marina or at Al Wasl Spinney's ATM and then used many times in Egypt for a total value of Dh15,000 in various transactions, in shops such as pharmacies and sports stores," she wrote to Gulf News.

She can't recall which bank's ATM she used since she uses several banks' machines.

Her bank, Lloyds TSB Middle East, reimbursed the entire amount within a day.

Notification

HSBC, Emirates NBD, Dubai Islamic Bank and National Bank of Abu Dhabi are among the banks that have notified their customers of recent attacks and have advised them to change their PIN numbers to avoid falling victim to this fraud.

And most banks whose customers have been victims are investigating these cases.

"The magnitude of the problem is not so big," said Abdullah Qasim, chairman of Network International, a subsidiary of Emirates NBD.

"But our bank has advised customers who have used the ATMs of a particular bank so far - not sure whether other banks' ATMs - to either change their PIN, or in some cases have been issued new cards."

Caution at ATMs

HSBC has instructed its customers via SMS to change their PIN numbers at any of its ATMs and, according to a statement released to the press, has refunded the "small number of our customers that have been affected."

All banks reiterate that customers must exercise caution when operating ATMs.

"The bank advises customers to remain vigilant and to contact their bank if they notice anything unusual about an ATM which could indicate a card reader or camera has been fixed," said Julian Ashall, COO at Lloyds TSB Middle East, told Gulf News.

Teachers across the UAE will now require licence

Abu Dhabi: The teaching community in the UAE will now need to be licensed after completing introductory orientation workshops and an intensive four-month programme.

Effective from October 12 a total of 10,000 teachers, supervisors and principals in kindergarten to Grade 12 schools across Dubai and the northern emirates will be given professional training on national standards for curriculum and assessment, teacher pre-service and graduate education, teacher certification and licensure, teacher recruitment, evaluation, compensation and promotion systems and teacher professional development (IPDP).

Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research yesterday said: "Every student matters to us. That's why we are looking at latest educational developments across the world and implementing them in the UAE. The government has always believed that education is the key to a nation's prosperity and with the wise supervision of our leaders, this initiative has taken place."

Shaikh Nahyan and Dr Hanif Hassan, Minister of Education, signed a five-year partnership known as Teachers for the 21st Century, focus on raising student performance in education through creating a highly qualified teaching force.

Training will also be provided by the Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD) to 60 employees from the Ministry of Education and Zayed University.

"This is one of the biggest projects of its kind in the Middle East since it is related to developing qualifications of teachers and renovating the whole educational system to benefit our students," said the education minister.

Follow up

Four monthly regional follow-up workshops for 3,000 teachers, supervisors and principals will be delivered by trained bilingual educations. Workshops will be held every month.

"We will train teachers to get licensed. We will start with 10,000, but our aim is to train all teachers across the UAE on teaching as a science - how the brain learns, learning environments that support positive student interaction, inquiry, creativity, responsibility and many more," said Elizabeth Ross, educational consultant at the Ministry of Education.

Dr Joseph Ghaly, executive director and CEO of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Middle East, told Gulf News that academics will be able to access online professional development courses and performance criteria, assessment tools, focus groups and forums for local and international educators.

Key features

Support material

The programme resources will include research based and customised support materials including:

- 20 books translated to Arabic

- Three books translated to Arabic for all 10,000 teachers

- Professional development certification courses

- Multimedia, articles, monographs, etc

- All specialised materials for workshops.

Sep 10, 2008

UAE hit by tremors after Iran earthquake

Dubai: Severe tremors were felt in Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman and other parts of the emirates at around 3.08pm local time forcing people to flee from homes and office.

First tremor reports were received  from people located in parts of Deira and Bur Dubai, Captain Sultan Al Merri, Dubai Police Operations Room, Duty Officer toldGulf News.

The tremors first struck off the coast of Sharjah, measuring 4.9 on the Richter scale.

The jolts were so severe that they were felt by the people living in the first and second floors of the building. Police and Civil Defence department has not reported any material damage or causalities.

The quake sent a wave of panic among the residents and most them rushed out in the open and safe places.

The National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS) is currently been working on collecting details of the earthquake.

People living and working in Al Quasis, Bur Dubai and Dubai Media City said that the tremors lasted for a few seconds. Residents in Sharjah reported their buildings swaying. 

“My office is in Al Quasis. I was so scared. All the 28 people working in our office ran out of the building," said one worker.

The jolts were caused by a powerful earthquake measures 6.2 that occurred in the south-west of the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas. The epicentre of the quake was 43km west of the Qishm Island in the Arabian Gulf.

According to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre, the depth of the quake was some 50km in the earth.

Sep 5, 2008

Major fire breaks out at Al Sha'ab football stadium in Sharjah

Sharjah: A major fire broke out at the Al Sha'ab football stadium in Sharjah on Thursday.  The cause of the fire is still not known.   No casualties have been reported.   The estimate of the damage caused by the fire has to be determined. 

Parking fines waived after machines act up

Sharjah: Residents in Sharjah had their parking fines for the first three days of Ramadan waived due to prevailing confusion over new paid parking timings.  Paid parking timings have been extended during Ramadan from 8am to 1pm and from 7.30pm until midnight. However, residents voiced concerns after parking metres continue to issue tickets displaying times from 5pm to 10pm.  "The parking machines still run as per the old timings, and this is causing enormous confusion," said Trevor Fernandes, a resident of Abu Shagara.  "I am very worried that I will be slapped with a fine, even though I am not at fault. The authorities should fix the machines as soon as possible," said Ebrahim Fakih, another Sharjah resident.  "Parking inspectors were instructed not to issue any fines on that day [Tuesday], but the problem was corrected the next day. We understand that people may still be unaware about the new timings, and that is why residents up till now have not received any parking fines after 10pm," said Tareq Bin Kalban, Acting Head of the Operation Section at the Department of Transport and Freight, Sharjah Municipality.  If residents are faced with any problems related to parking metres, they are instructed to call the Department of Transport and Freight 24-hour hotline 800833.