ABU DHABI // An attempt by a government charity to help some workers has backfired.
The charity offered some Sudanese workers the opportunity to remain in the UAE by giving them work permits. However, what it failed to do was provide them with any employment contracts or salary certificates.
Although grateful for the permit, father-of-two I M said it had created problems when it came to renting somewhere to live.
“I have no contract or proof that I have a steady income, so I can’t legally rent any accommodation. Me and my family move around from one shared villa to another. We stay until the municipality catches us and the electricity is cut off,” he said.
The 41-year-old has worked for the charity since 2013. He is one of dozens across the UAE who the charity hires to collect donations at booths in malls, hospitals and mosques.
“I was hired as a donations collector but was never given a job contract or a payslip. We would get paid a few thousand on and off, every few months. Sometimes we would go three or four months without pay.”
He is renting a room in a villa for his family. There are 18 other families living in the villa.
Their room is three by two metres with a built-in bathroom and a kitchenette. “It’s a squalor and very small but we are grateful we have a roof over our head,” he said.
I M pays Dh2,400 in cash for the room every month. “I know it’s illegal and soon the municipality will crack down on us and we will have to move but I have no other option,” he said.
He is sending his family back to Sudan this week. “This isn’t a life for a woman and young children. They need a stable home.”
Four months ago, the charity asked him to start looking for another job and to be “grateful” that it gave him residency.
“This to them was charity – giving me residency – and I am grateful really,” he said.
I M said that six of his colleagues were also told to start looking for jobs.
Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation officials have said many times that job contracts are important.
Humaid bin Deemas, assistant undersecretary for labour affairs at the ministry, said that contracts are a mandatory requirement for residency permits to be issued.
“How else will we secure the rights of both parties?” he said, adding that all 4.7 million employees that fall under the labour ministry have employment contracts.
The charity, however, is not classified under the ministry and it has refused to give I M any official documents.
However, I M is still one of the lucky ones. He has a residency permit, something his countryman S M has been waiting on for five years.
“My residency is on another company that has agreed that I work for the charity. I have been working for them for five years now, hoping that they will give me a permit,” he said.
But every time he has approached the charity, S M said, they had asked him to “wait”.
In September, after five years, he was told that there was a hiring freeze. He has now been told by his company that his visa will be cancelled and he has a few months to find a new job.
“I’ve been in the UAE for 14 years. All my children where born here. The UAE is more home to them than Sudan. I don’t know where to go now,” S M said.
The charity has not responded to inquiries.