DUBAI // More than 4,000 unlicensed traders, butchers, porters, car cleaners and beggars were arrested last year, most of them during Ramadan, Dubai Municipality announced yesterday.
The municipality urged residents not to employ illegal labourers, saying they posed a security threat.
"This phenomenon increases during Ramadan and festival seasons," said Obaid Ibrahim Al Marzouqi, the head of the municipality's markets section.
His department, along with Dubai Police and the Department of Residence and Foreigners Affairs, detained more than 3,000 unlicensed vendors and porters, 472 car cleaners, 188 butchers and 536 beggars.
The municipality also seized more than 57,000 pirated films, and at least 1,600 alcohol bottles.
However, some labourers said they were forced into illegal work because they had taken huge loans to pay recruitment agents in their home countries. Many said they had come to the UAE based on promises of high salaries, but after arriving were paid less than they had been told.
MR, an Indian who has been in the UAE without a residency visa for a year, said he had paid 80,000 rupees (Dh5,712) to an agent for a job in Dubai.
"I have to make up for the money I took," he said. "Our family land has been mortgaged and the only way I can get it back is by accumulating some money," said MR, who washes cars, works on building sites, and does other odd jobs.
"I was brought on a work visa by a packaging company, who promised Dh800 a month and accommodation. But they paid only Dh300 and I had to pay for my own accommodation and food. It was really difficult to make ends meet."
He quit the company after a year.
Another worker said he had been without a visa for the past five years.
"I do some electrical and plumbing jobs," said MK, also from India, who makes about Dh60 a day. He said this was the only way he could support his wife and two children.
"I would really like to go back home as I am missing my family," he said.
MK paid 60,000 rupees (Dh4,284) to an agent for a visit visa.
"I send some money home so my family can survive," he said. "There is little work in my village. At least here I can do some small jobs."
A social worker yesterday said workers should be educated on the need to secure sufficiently well-paying jobs before leaving their home countries.
"It is difficult to discourage people from coming," said Uma Rani Padmanabhan, an Indian welfare worker who helps expatriates in distress.
"If people are coming on a visit, they should report to the consulate and give details of their visit. The UAE Government should also scrutinise visit visa holders and check their academic qualifications, the purpose of their visit and other travel details," she said.
Mrs Padmanabhan said that even when workers were made aware of visa rules they often ignored them.
"They have families to support and they want to make some money fast and leave," she said.