50,000 a day
... that’s the number of massage cards picked up by street cleaners in just one area of Dubai
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