The United Arab Emirates, whose booming economy functions thanks to millions of foreign workers, has been urged to put a six-year cap on their residency, a local newspaper reported on Wednesday.
The internal affairs and defence committee of the consultative Federal National Council (FNC), said the workers should leave the country after six years and only be allowed back after obtaining a new residency visa.
A local daily quoted the committee as saying this would allow the oil-rich country to circumvent obligations that might be imposed by international conventions regarding foreign manpower.
The proposals made on Tuesday would require the approval of the cabinet and UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
The newspaper said official statistics put the number of foreign workers at 3.1 million, or 90 per cent of the private sector workforce, many of them from Asia.
It is estimated the number of Emiratis will be less than 8 per cent of the workforce in 2009, a figure dropping to 4 per cent by 2020.
Statistics recently published by the FNC, half of whose members are elected, put the UAE population at 5.6 million at the end of 2006, with only 15.4 per cent being citizens.
The committee also proposed that the labour law cover workers in free zones and that only the federal government be authorised to grant passports and citizenship.
It also recommended:
- a law to regulate the employment of domestic workers and make it a crime to abscond from employers,
- the creation of unified ID cards,
- severe punishment for people trading in visas or bringing people into the country without jobs,
- clear regulations governing the issuance of visas.
An estimated 13 million foreigners live in the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. That is equivalent to 37 per cent of the combined 35 million population.
Bahraini Labour Minister Majid Al Alawi said recently their presence was "more dangerous than the atomic bomb," and that their numbers could approach 30 million within a decade.