x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Villa rule risks education of expatriate children

Welfare groups have urged Indian authorities to help pupils forced to return home in midterm after being evicted from villas in Dubai.

DUBAI // Welfare groups have urged Indian authorities to help pupils forced to return home in midterm after being evicted from villas in Dubai. Dubai Municipality's "one villa, one family" campaign banning families from sharing villas has left hundreds of low-income expatriate families without homes. Unable to afford rents in flats, many men are sending their wives and children home.

Children seeking admissions back in India are having trouble finding places and risk losing an entire academic year. "People have started moving out and there will be an exodus of low and middle-income families from the UAE after the present academic year," said KV Shamsudheen, chairman of Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust. "They will all be looking for admissions and it is important that the government is prepared."

Mr Shamsudheen has sent an appeal letter to the minister for overseas Indian affairs, Vayalar Ravi, requesting a special order to state governments to provide admissions for all children affected. "If they do not get seats, the future of thousands of children would be uncertain," he said. Low-income expatriate families share villas in areas such as Al Rashidiya, Satwa, Bur Dubai, Jumeirah and others to beat the growing rents and cost of living. However, Dubai Municipality's decision to evict families sharing villas has left hundreds of them with no place to go.

Dubai Municipality's deadline for moving out of shared villas expired on Oct 24 and inspectors are cutting utilities and fining violators. "I have spoken to several families and they are holding on until the end of the academic year. The families are now desperately looking for cheap homes in other emirates like Umm al Quwain and Ras al Khaimah," Mr Shamsudheen said. An Indian resident of Al Rashidiya, who did not wish to be identified, said: "Many of us are holding on only because of our children's education. We are desperately looking for a temporary place to live until this academic year is complete."

She added that many of her friends would have to borrow money to pay advance rents at apartments. "We are taking loans to hold on because schools in India are not accepting our children in midsemester. It is very difficult to get them into a decent school and we don't want to ruin their future," said the mother of two young girls. She added that her family was even prepared to stay without water and electricity. "It's the future of our children that matters."

Meanwhile, Omar Mohammed Abdul Rahman, the head of buildings inspection at Dubai Municipality said yesterday that offenders, villa owners as well as tenants, will be fined up to Dh50,000 if they are found violating the villa rule. Water and electricity supplies have also been cut off to several villas. In Al Rashidiya area, water and electricity supply to dozens of villas were cut off, families in the area said yesterday.