Ringleaders sought among thousands held in labour protest

Investigations are ongoing into a violent protest that took place at a labour camp in Ras al Khaimah.

The UAE authorities were now trying to identify the workers involved in the rioting.
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Investigations are ongoing into a violent protest at a labour camp in Ras al Khaimah, in which thousands of workers were arrested, to identify the ringleaders, says Talmiz Ahmed, India's Ambassador to the UAE. Mr Ahmed said all 3,147 workers were in detention after the "spontaneous event" last Friday, when workers allegedly attacked security guards and vandalised company buses. The company called in police and the riot squad was deployed.

"It was a spontaneous and local event. It does not appear to be something that was over a period of time. Sometimes a minor dispute goes out of control," Mr Ahmed said yesterday. He said violence began over an altercation between labourers and canteen staff, which snowballed and the workers turned violent. "There is no evidence about lack of food. It was neither inadequate nor bad," he said. "The food was not bad, but a bunch of workers were arguing there was a separate mess for managers. This is a matter of company policy. They were not complaining about the quality of the food."

The UAE authorities were now trying to identify the workers involved in the rioting. "Not more than 100 people were involved, but it is UAE policy to identify and interrogate as to who participated in the violence," Mr Ahmed said, adding that the embassy was in contact with the authorities to check on the workers. "We have conveyed our views to the foreign office and the Ministry of Interior. We condemn all forms of violence because there are grievance redress forums at all levels. However, we do not support any policy of mass deportation because it would harm the interests of the innocent workers and the employer."

Vayalar Ravi, India's minister for external affairs, appealed to expatriate workers in the Gulf to refrain from violence and to maintain the good image of the country. Speaking from India, Mr Ravi said: "This sort of violence is not acceptable to the Indian government. I want to appeal to all the Indian workers in the Gulf countries not to resort to violence and use proper channels to address their concerns.

"I urge them to maintain the reputation and image of India." He said the violence was unexpected and he was upset by the behaviour of the workers. pmenon@thenational.ae sbhattacharya@thenational.ae