Dubai residents have backed a plan to heavily fine and deport people that leave so-called massage cards on the doors of residential homes, exposing children to lurid images of undressed women working in the sex trade.
Dubai Municipality officials are holding talks with other authorities about a move to impose fines of up to Dh10,000 and immediate deportation orders for those caught putting the illegal ads on doors of apartments and villas. The move would also include flyers for other businesses such as cleaning services. The current penalty is just Dh500.
Distributors have long been a common sight, particularly Barsha Heights, Barsha 1 and Discovery Gardens, littering car windscreens with the cards, though police and immigration officials have for years sought to tackle the menace.
But residents have reported finding the adverts tucked into front door frames as they return home.
Baljeet Kumar, an Indian who lives in Discovery Gardens, said he does not want want his children to see such adverts.
“I’ve got kids and I do not like them to see such stuff,” he said. “There are security guards in our building but still distributors find ways to place these adverts in front of my home.
“Sometimes my six-year-old child picks these cards up and gives them to my wife, saying that someone has dropped a card in front of our home. He doesn’t focus on what’s being advertised on these cards but it’s unacceptable.”
Mr Kumar, a sales manager, said the cards have been a problem for the six years he has lived in Dubai.
Massage cards have long been associated with the sex trade and there have been numerous cases in the courts, some involving violence.
One case earlier this month was that of a 25-year-old Nigerian who hit a police officer with a rock as he resisted arrest for placing massage cards on car windows. He was jailed for six months and will be deported after serving his sentence.
In another case in April, an illegal immigrant who was plastering car windshields with massage cards slashed a law enforcement officer with a knife when he was challenged in the street.
Bassam Abduallah, 28, a Lebanese expatriate living in Jumeirah, agreed with a clampdown.
“I complained to the municipality about these leaflets,” he said. “I really do not know how the distributors manage to fill my front door and car with adverts.
“Sometimes I call the company and yell at them for using such marketing and advertising techniques. It hasn’t made any difference, though, and the next day I find the same adverts on my door.”
The hike from Dh500 to Dh10,000 would be a deterrent, officials said.
“It has been noticed that many illegal adverts and posters have spread in all parts of the city, including in front of private homes, said Abdul Saifaie, director of the waste management department at Dubai Municipality.
"Such practices negatively affect and distort the appearance of the city.
“First, it is a security issue as these workers are unlicensed and you can never know where they come from and residents hiring them as maids or using their services are giving them access to their lives, homes and even families,” he said.
“Second, it’s a health issue as these workers are unqualified and may not have taken proper measures to carry on with their tasks. Also, it’s an environmental issue due to the waste. When drivers find their cars filled with these adverts, they will throw it on the streets.”
Mr Saifaie said his department was in talks with police, the Department of Economic Development and immigration to implement tougher penalties to curb the problem. “The penalties will include immediate deportation and a fine of Dh10,000 to distributors of such adverts,” he said.
Mr Saifaie said he agreed with residents’ concerns regarding the content of such cards, and this was partly why he was pushing for more stringent punishment.
“It’s extremely inappropriate for teenagers to see some of these ads,” he said. “Some of these posters carry unsuitable pictures for our culture or children to see.”
A recent one-week campaign across Dubai conducted by the waste management department and Dubai Police has resulted in the collection of more than one million adverts and posters.
Inspectors scoured the streets of Al Qusais, Al Hamriya and Abu Hail taking down ads and handing out fines to those responsible for placing them.