50,000 a day

... that’s the num­ber of mas­sage cards picked up by street clean­ers in just one area of Dubai

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Sar­wat Nasir @Sar­watNasir

Ev­ery car owner has had to deal with pick­ing an­noy­ing mas­sage par­lour cards out of their win­dows.

But imag­ine hav­ing to clean up park­ing lots lit­tered with tens of thou­sands - only to have card dis­trib­u­tors undo that work ev­ery sin­gle day.

One clean­ing team in Bar­sha Heights, Dubai, has re­vealed it is left to clear 50,000 cards a day in that district alone.

Fol­low­ing com­plaints from readers, 7DAYS spent sev­eral days watch­ing dis­trib­u­tors – who po­lice say are linked to pros­ti­tu­tion gangs – lit­ter the area with cards fea­tur­ing pic­tures of semi-naked women.

San­deep, a su­per­vi­sor in a crew of 55 clean­ers, said: “It’s a big prob­lem here. We are pick­ing up more than 50,000 cards ev­ery day. We bring one ded­i­cated truck just for mas­sage cards.

“There’s a Chinese lady and two Chinese men who dis­trib­ute the cards – they come just af­ter we fin­ish our work in the af­ter­noon.”

Fam­i­lies in the area are also frus­trated that their chil­dren are be­ing ex­posed to such im­ages.

Mi­raj Acharya, a 41-year-old In­dian ex­pat, said he makes sure to re­move the cards from his car be­fore he takes his seven-year-old son out.

He said: “Some­thing has to be done about this prob­lem.”

And today po­lice re­it­er­ated warn­ings that card dis­trib­u­tors can be pros­e­cuted un­der ob­scen­ity laws and not just fined for lit­ter­ing.

When San­deep and his col­leagues start work at 5am ev­ery day, they know their ef­forts will be en­tirely fu­tile.

Be­cause, barely an hour af­ter they have fin­ished clear­ing mas­sage par­lour cards from the streets of Bar­sha Heights, the dis­trib­u­tors be­gin lit­ter­ing the area again.

It takes 55 clean­ers about eight hours to fin­ish their job, but not long for the work of the team from facilities man­age­ment firm Im­daad to be quickly un­done.

“It’s the same sit­u­a­tion ev­ery day,” he says, stand­ing be­side a refuse truck con­tain­ing some 50,000 cards.

“We come at five in the morn­ing, fill the truck with mas­sage cards and leave in the af­ter­noon. And then do the same job the next day.”

He adds: “Every­one knows hand­ing out mas­sage cards is not al­lowed but they do it any­way.

“Our job is to clean and we can do that but when does it stop?

“We aren’t in charge of stop­ping these crimes even though we are the ones who have to clean up af­ter­wards.” Most of the cards fea­ture pic­tures of women in their un­der­wear and their con­tact num­bers.

Res­i­dents of Bar­sha Heights, for­merly named Te­com, in­clude young fam­i­lies. Par­ents told 7DAYS of their frus­tra­tion at the sit­u­a­tion.

Naveed Azam, a Pak­istani public re­la­tions of­fi­cer for a res­tau­rant in Bar­sha, said: “It’s very em­bar­rass­ing to find these cards, what if my fam­ily or friends see them on my car?

“I have called the po­lice be­fore when I found the cards on my car, but they just told me to call them if it hap­pens again.”

Kim Lewis, a 32-year-old Cana­dian ex­pat, said she finds about 25 cards cov­er­ing her car on the av­er­age week­day. She said: “When I head to my car af­ter work, I’m al­ready men­tally ready that I have to re­move the cards off my car.

“It’s not a sur­prise any­more. It’s be­come very com­mon, es­pe­cially in the evening.

“I am used to it, but I wouldn’t say that it’s okay to have these cards all over my car, with half-naked women on them.”

Fel­low res­i­dent Nancy (pic­tured left), an ad­min as­sis­tant, added: “Ev­ery day I take 20 to 25 cards off my car - the same cards ev­ery day.”

Dubai Mu­nic­i­pal­ity led a cam­paign in Fe­bru­ary to clear the streets of cards, seiz­ing seven mil­lion in just a few days.

They fined 57 mas­sage par­lours and ar­rested a num­ber of peo­ple. But even fines and jail terms do not ap­pear to put the par­lours and sa­lons off tout­ing for busi­ness.

Mi­raj Acharya, a 41-year-old In­dian, said he makes sure to re­move all of the cards from his car be­fore he takes his seven-year-old son out.

He says: “One day he’s look­ing and some day he might ac­ci­dently call the num­ber on the card. Some­thing has to be done about this prob­lem. It’s spread all over Dubai and it doesn’t look nice - ru­ins the im­age of the place.”

LIT­TERED: Res­i­dents said they of­ten have up to 25 cards stuck to their doors in a day. Be­low, one dis­trib­u­tor goes from ve­hi­cle to ve­hi­cle on Tues­day af­ter­noon

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