Workers face battle to stay in UAE after RAK water park closes

Expatriate staff fear for the future after more than 200 made redundant at Ice Land Water Park

RAK , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, September 5 – 2018 :- Closed signboard at the entrance gate of the Ice Land Water Park in Ras Al Khaimah. ( Pawan Singh / The National )  For News.  Story by Ruba Haza
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Devastated expatriate workers face a race against time to remain in the UAE – after a RAK water park closed with the loss of more than 200 jobs.

Staff at Ice Land Water Park were made redundant after being told that the attraction was to close its doors.

RAK government said it had shut down the ice-themed water park as part of an ongoing plan to make the emirate a “global destination”.

Nearly a third of the workforce are from Bangladesh, with the remainder originally from Philippines, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Many rely on their salary to send money home to their families.

The Bangladeshis said it was difficult to find employers to sponsor their visas, to allow them to stay in the country.

Imam Rafiq, 27, a lifeguard instructor, has worked for the park for a decade and now fears he will have to go back home if he cannot find a job.

RAK , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, September 5 – 2018 :- Left to Right –Imam Rafiq , Rasel Mia , Rafiq Ul Islam , Mooti Rehman and Robin Abdul employees of the Ice Land Water Park during the interview at their accommodation in Ras Al Khaimah. ( Pawan Singh / The National )  For News.  Story by Ruba Haza
Workers like Imam Rafiq , Rasel Mia , Rafiq Ul Islam , Mooti Rehman and Robin Abdul (from left to right0 face an uncertain future after being made redundant. Pawan Singh/The National

"I'm really sad that the park is closed, the team was like a family to me and the management tried to find us other jobs," Mr Rafiq said.

“Our visa is very difficult to transfer and I’m worried that I will go back to my family empty-handed.

“It’s a critical situation with limited opportunities and we are running out of time. We only have until the end of this month,” he said.

Another Bangladeshi lifeguard said that he did not have enough money to start a small business back home to continue supporting his family.

“I have a two-year-old daughter and I need to take care of her along with the rest of the family. They all count on me and now I’m unemployed,” said Rafiq Ul Islam, 34, who also joined the park in 2008.

"There are about 60 of us from Bangladesh and we all have responsibilities and fixed payments every month that we need to cover. All of the companies that I went to said that they can't offer me a job because the visa is very difficult to obtain."

The employees received salaries for August and were promised to get another one month pay-off along with their end-of-service gratuities this month.

Some still stay at the park's accommodation, while others live in shared villas nearby.

“I pay Dh400 for rent along with other expenses and I send about Dh1,200 to my family each month. I can’t stop sending them the money and I can’t sit here and do nothing. I need to work,” Mr Ul Islam said.

A group of 34 Filipino workers took a bus to Sharjah yesterday seeking jobs at a new hotel.

One of the women said that she might have to go back to her country if she was unable to find a job this month.

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"My two daughters are in school and they need the money and I can't stay here without a job because my visa will expire in a month, I can't sleep and I can't rest unless I find a job that will help me support myself and my family," said the 33-year-old Filipina, who used to work as a lifeguard supervisor at the park.

Edith Plata, who organised the interviews in Sharjah to help her former colleagues, said that it might be difficult for them to find new jobs.

The park management confirmed the closure on their website and social media accounts on August 30.

The Dh100 million park, which opened in 2010, was an integral part of the Ras al Khaimah plan intended to transform the emirate into a tourist destination.

The 50-hectare park featured 37 slides and was managed by Polo RAK Amusements, a joint venture between Polo Amusement Park, RAK Investment Authority and RAK Properties.

The RAK government said it closed the park as part of its vision to provide world-class facilities for the emirate.

"His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, has set a clear vision to enhance the emirate's competitiveness on an international scale and cement its status as a prime global destination," said a government statement.

“The RAK government has been persistent in its efforts to boost development across vital sectors, as well as to set and implement clear directions for the future of the emirate and, with that in mind, has moved forward with foreclosing Ice Land Water Park for the time being.”