January 3, 2010

A Tale of Two

There are two interns who sit across from me at the paper.

One is Bangladeshi and one is Indian. They were both born here and neither is Emirati.

Their parents came here in the 1970s in search of a better life for their families. The grandfather of the Bangladeshi girl came even earlier, and would split time between Abu Dhabi and his home village. Both girls have two countries and none at the same time. Neither has spent any considerable time outside of the UAE, yet it is unlikely they will stay here. Each holds a passport for her ethnic country.

The UAE has no policy to naturalize citizens. It is happy to welcome immigrants to work, and even their families. As long as they leave.

There is a mandatory retirement age of 60 here and it applies whether you are Emirati or not. It is possible, from time to time, to get an extension of perhaps two years. But in the modern world, most people don't retire at 62. And while most anyone is welcome to work here, that's where the hospitality ends. Once a person has no job, that's the end of the line. Thirty days to leave town before the visa expires.

So imagine that you are one of these girls. You have friends and a community here You have attended college here. You would like to find a job, but as all over the world, jobs are a little more scarce than they used to be. You would like to plan your future, but you have no idea where that future will be. You are Emirati, but you're definitely not. Once the fathers of these girls retire, the girls must leave too.

They contemplate their options and try to think of places they could go. They are tourists, strangers really, in their "home" countries. And soon they will not be welcome in their adopted country, the only one they have ever known. There is a two-tier system here even for those who contribute to the society, who helped build it up. There is Emirati and there is not. Two families can live side-by-side, working at the same jobs at the same rate of pay and if you look closely you can see the discrepancies. Until recently, only one could own property. One will have a generous retirement. One will have free schooling for his children. One will have access to a marriage fund. And the other has to leave when the work is done.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey there!

I was browsing through and stumbled upon your blog. I really liked your post about the two interns who are torn apart between their two homelands.

As a matter of fact I'm just emailing to share with you that my family is an identical example to that of the Bangladeshis (and also a dozen of other families that I know that lived here all their lives only to be told to 'up and leave'). Both of my parents were working here for more than 20 years, especially Dad - 30 years! And torn apart from the reality that as we don't have anyone back in Somalia (that's where I'm from) and literally have everything here is just saddening.

But then again we do keep our hopes as always, change's going to come..some how! =)