x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Food distributed to abandoned workers

Food has been distributed to hundreds of labourers who were stranded by Systems Engineering LLC boss.

DUBAI // Good Samaritans have come to the aid of the 400 workers who were left without food, shelter or pay for five months after their employer's companies went bust.

The Overseas Residents Malayalees Association (Orma) yesterday distributed food, rice, vegetables, a cooking hob and other kitchen items to workers in Al Quoz. They are also assisting 200 based in an Ajman labour camp.

"They had no food to eat," said Gurukulam Vijayan, the general co-ordinator of the association. "We thought we should distribute food items so they can tide over the situation until they are sent home or find a new job."

Systems Engineering LLC, a steel fabrication and engineering firm with offices in Sharjah and Dubai, was founded in 1997 by Joseph D'Souza. The Indian businessman fled the UAE this month after his businesses failed.

He had employed hundreds of men from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal as helpers, welders and steel fixers.

Mr Vijayan said the Orma was planning to arrange air tickets for workers who had their passports with them. "Some of them don't have passports with them as they were held by the company," he said.

The workers have been sleeping in storerooms and in the kitchen of the now-defunct company's workshop after they were evicted from their labour camp.

"They are really in a bad condition," said Mr Vijayan. "More people should come forward to help them. It will reduce their burden."

The association has also approached a catering company to supply free food to stranded labourers at the Ajman labour camp.

"We are trying to do whatever we can," he said. "These men are happy that someone is behind them to show support."

Anil Upadhyaya, a Nepalese worker, said they had been able to survive by buying groceries on store credit. "They know now that we can't give them money so they stopped giving us goods," he said.

Another worker, who did not want to be named, said he was devastated by news they would not be getting end-of-service gratuity. "I worked for the company for 13 years," he said. "If I don't get my gratuity all my hard work will have been for nothing. It's unimaginable."