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UAE denies mass expulsion of striking Asian workers

Dubai’s police chief denied on Wednesday that the authorities were planning a mass expulsion of Asian workers who went on strike in the booming Gulf emirate over poor wages and living conditions.

“The police guarantee the right to return to work to those labourers who took part in the strike and did not get involved in vandalism,” police chief Dahi Khalfan told the Arabic newspaper Emarat Al-Youm.

But he added: “Those who do not wish to resume work will be deported.” The local press had quoted senior labour ministry official Humaid bin Deemas on Tuesday saying there would be a “deportation of 4,000 labourers who went on strike and committed acts of vandalism.”

Several thousand manual workers in Dubai downed tools and reportedly occupied and vandalised a building before attacking police and vehicles with stones on Saturday.

On Sunday, the strike spread to three other areas in the city-state, with the local press reporting 3,100 workers involved, but police moved in and returned the strikers to their accommodation blocks.

Another 2,000 construction workers were also still on strike late Tuesday, staying in their housing compound in the middle of the desert.

He said the strike involved 4,500 workers, including 3,900 Indians, but that many of those workers claimed to have been caught in the middle, and had not intended to protest.

Such protests are rare in the UAE, where strike action is outlawed and workers are not allowed to form labour unions.

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