AL AIN // Labourers were allowed back into the Bawadi Mall on Friday, after The National revealed last week that they had been banned. The workers had been prevented from entering the mall on Fridays and in the evening. The mall said it had received complaints from customers, but stopped short of confirming there was any sort of official ban on the labourers entering. However, a member of the mall's security staff, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said management had issued a directive before the weekend. It told security that labourers were to be allowed in at all times, provided their dress and behaviour were appropriate.
It cautioned staff to be vigilant about finding and dealing with "inappropriate" behaviour. Located in the Mezyad District of the city, the mall is within walking distance of many company compounds, and therefore more accessible for labourers than Al Ain and Al Jimi Malls. Bashar Tamimi, the mall's general manager, said on Friday that it had been concerned that the large number of labourers would discourage other shoppers.
"When merchants and shoppers complain of a certain group of individuals, we have to address those complaints," he said. "We ask that all visitors to the mall dress appropriately and act respectfully." The international organisation Human Rights Watch welcomed the reversal of the ban. "It's encouraging that they have pulled back," said Samer Muscati, an HRW researcher. "The whole issue of shopping malls is symptomatic of a much larger problem in the way labourers are treated and viewed."
He suggested that had the ban remained in place, it would have been noted by a UN special rapporteur who is due to visit the UAE later this year. Githu Muigai, a Kenyan human rights lawyer, is due to travel here to report on any racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia or related intolerance. Hundreds of labourers wandered around the mall on Friday night, many watching an entertainment and acrobatics show.
Many welcomed the lifting of the ban, with some saying they would be more careful about how they and others behaved in the mall. However Pradeep Kakar, 23, an Indian caretaker, said labourers should not have been kept out in the first place. "I don't think I should be thanking the mall, I think it owes us an apology," he said. "We have a right to be respected so long as we respect everyone else. But yes, I am happy."
There were, however, seven reported shoplifting incidents involving labourers at Carrefour yesterday. A store employee said there had also been complaints about "labourers loitering in the women's clothing department where men have no business being". At Al Ansari Exchange, a female Emirati clerk welcomed the lifting of the ban. The number of cash transfers to India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal had increased dramatically this weekend compared to previous weekends when the labourers were kept away, she said.