AL AIN // Labourers are no longer welcome as patrons at Al Bawadi Mall on weekday evenings and at weekends. They have been banned after complaints from the public about women being harassed and other "unsightly" antisocial behaviour, according to the mall's management. The ban has angered labourers, saying it is penalising everyone for the actions of a few. "This is not a total ban," said Khalid Shraim, the mall's marketing manager. "Labourers are allowed to use the mall's rear entrance closest to Carrefour during the day and early evening, but they cannot come to the mall on weekends.
"We are trying to maintain the quality of the mall and create a wholesome family shopping experience. "Unfortunately, there is a lack of awareness on the part of the labourers as to what is appropriate behaviour and what isn't. It comes from a lack of education. "For example, one labourer came into the mall when it first opened, took off his sandals, put them under his head to use as a pillow and laid down to sleep on the benches at the mall's entrance.
"Another labourer drove a pickup truck past the automatic sliding doors and right into the mall before being stopped by security. "The biggest problem we have is them staring at women." While the mall management said the ban had come in consultation with Al Ain Police, the force said they simply "requested that all people who attend the mall dress appropriately". An Al Ain Police spokesman added: "No groups or individuals have been identified - this is a request to all visitors to the mall."
The mall opened in December last year and expects to attract 400 shops and up to eight million visitors a year. In a visit to the mall by The National on Sunday evening, most of the labourers inside could be seen simply walking around, although a few were spotted taking photographs with their mobile telephones of women and children. "A ban like this makes us feel like we are subhuman," said Iftikhar Hussein, a 24-year-old Pakistani construction worker.
"It is not fair to punish us all for the actions of a few. "We work very hard during the day and want to relax in the evening by walking around and seeing nice things." Akash Salim, a 23-year-old Bangladeshi tea boy, said: "I went to the mall on Thursday night to go to Al Ansari Exchange to send money home to my family who needed it urgently in Bangladesh but security would not let me in. "I tried again on Friday and still wasn't let in. I had to take a taxi to go to the town centre to send the money home."
Mohammed al Suwaidi, 39, an Emirati businessman, who was at the mall on Friday with his wife and daughter, supported the ban. "Unfortunately these people don't know how to act," he said. "They don't understand that some things are not acceptable. It is better this way." Salman al Otaibi, 32, a Saudi banker visiting Al Ain, would like to see the ban enforced on any man who is not with his family. "In Saudi Arabia, single men are not allowed inside the mall on weekends and the evenings at all regardless of what class they are or what country they come from," he said.
"I understand the labourers feeling singled out and sympathise with them. "I think the mall should ban entry to anyone who comes here without his family so as not to be branded as being racist. "This also will stop the harassment of women not only by labourers but by young Arab men also." The mall is considering building a mini-mall behind the main mall that will cater to the needs of labourers as the mall is located in an industrial part of the city where many labourer accommodations are located.
"We are human beings dealing with human beings and realise that labourers also have shopping needs," Mr Shraim said. "We are considering building a mini-mall for them with stores that sell less expensive items that they can afford on the minimal salaries they earn." firstname.lastname@example.org