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Pakistan vows to help expatriates

Workers returning home after losing their jobs in the UAE will receive support from the country's government, a senior minister promises.

Pakistanis returning home after losing their jobs in the UAE will receive support from the country's government, a senior minister has promised. Addressing hundreds of his country's expatriates at a meeting on Thursday in Dubai, Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah, the minister for labour, manpower and overseas Pakistanis, said: "We will definitely help in their return because it is our duty, and you have told us this.

"We will also give them aid to those who come back." Mr Shah said he did not know exactly how many Pakistanis had returned from the UAE. "I know that this is a problem, and it is something I am taking very seriously," he added. "These things must be made better; we do need some time, and I will try." Pakistanis at Thursday night's meeting called on Mr Shah to reassure them their countrymen would be looked after and vocationally trained if they returned to Pakistan.

"A lot of people are going back to Pakistan because of the financial crisis," said Abad Ansari, the joint secretary of the Pakistan Association of Dubai. "We want an institution to support them, to train them, so that when they come back they will be skilled. Some sort of crash vocational course would give them a better standing for when they come back and the economy improves." He added the government should give Pakistanis who have lost their jobs certificates once they have been trained. The documentation would improve their job prospects, he said.

About 850,000 Pakistanis live and work in the UAE, making them the second-largest community here after Indians. Thousands are thought to have returned to their homeland after losing their jobs. Mr Shah said vocational training was offered already, but it was not mandatory for labourers. He said the government was setting up a programme specifically for those returning from the Gulf states. Pakistan's ambassador to the UAE, Khurshid Ahmed Junejo, and Dr Saeed Khan Mohmand, the consul general in Dubai, also attended the gathering.

Mr Junejo said Pakistan was in talks with Etisalat to set up a charity SMS service so donations for the refugees in the Swat valley, where the military is battling Taliban forces, can be sent via mobile phone. He warned people to only donate to "legitimate" agencies, including the embassy, the consulate in Dubai or the Pakistan Association. asafdar@thenational.ae

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