Sharjah workers: eviction nightmare

Hundreds of workers left homeless after being banished from families-only residential zones

00:00 April 12, 2012

Sharjah: Scores of "bachelors" have been left scrambling for shelters after a new rule banished them from families-only residential areas in Sharjah last week.

They complained rents in "industrial areas" and other neighbourhoods where they will be tolerated have doubled in the fallout of the evictions, with building watchmen allegedly taking bribes for forwarding competing housing agreements to landlords.

Unaffordable bed spaces

Some workers added that they have had to move as far away as Ajman and Umm Al Quwain to find affordable "bed spaces" or shared rooms. Monthly bed space rates in the districts they were banned from — like Halwan, Samnan, Khaziemiah and Mansura — were as low as Dh250. But now, monthly room rates in Nasiriya, for example, have skyrocketed to Dh2,000 — more than double the previous rents there.

The men, mostly South Asians in low-paying jobs, said they were told by government officials to move out at very short notice, as little as 24 hours. Water and power lines in their accommodations were cut off after the one-day notice period expired. Many said they lost money since they had paid rent in advance. Some of them have not yet found alternative housing and are staying temporarily with colleagues or friends.

Privacy concerns of Emirati families in villas close to accommodations housing labourers had prompted the official crackdown and workers' exodus. "We didn't get enough time to pack our belongings. We were told to leave and so we left," an Indian tenant living in a shared apartment close to Halwan Centre said on condition of anonymity. "I couldn't find a place to stay so I came back late at night to my old room to cook dinner. We are trickling back to pick up leftover stuff, it's a complicated situation. The pick-up truck drivers are asking Dh200-Dh300 to move our things just a kilometre down to the industrial area. Our salaries are just Dh600-Dh800, how can we survive?"

A restaurant staff member in the area, who also did not want to be named, said: "I used to live and work in the same building; now I've been evicted. Where will I find a taxi at 5.30am to be at work by 6am? I can't afford the fare anyway." Another former tenant in the Halwan area, a Bangladeshi tailor, said: "I've found a place that is around a 30 minute-walk to work. My lunch, which I bring with me, gets cold and soggy by afternoon. There's no place to warm it and I can't afford to eat out. I used to live within a minute from my shop."

Officials had previously banned labourers returning from shifts from disembarking in residential areas, requesting company bus services to take them to industrial areas instead.