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Fishermen fear being left out and overlooked by new FNC

ABU DHABI // Residents of Jumeirah’s old fishing neighbourhood are worried that the Federal National Council might not be paying attention to their needs, and the needs of the elderly.

The sight and sound of fishing boats heading into the Arabian Gulf or returning with their catches is a common one at the small harbours dotted along the coastline.

While better facilities for captains and their crews – including housing and souqs to sell their wares – have been added, many fishermen still have concerns.

Ahead of the FNC election day on October 3, The National’s reporters are travelling across the seven emirates to speak to Emiratis and find out the issues that affect them – and what they expect from members of a new Federal National Council. Read them here.

Former pearl diver Ali bin Salem bin Ali said many men of his generation were not formally educated so do not know how to voice their concerns to candidates.

“A lot of men my age aren’t educated and cannot participate in the Federal National Council,” said Mr bin Ali who, in his 70s, is one of the most experienced sailors at Jumeirah’s fishing harbour.

“I’m told that most of the voters and candidates this year are young. We have a fishermen’s majlis where no one came and listened to our needs. We feel left out.”

One of the main concerns for senior citizens is pension laws.

“There hasn’t been any significant changes to pensions in recent years. Everything is getting more expensive but our pensions are still stagnant and there are talks about deductions and decreases,” said Mr bin Ali.

The General Pensions and Social Security Authority (GPSSA) has said it hoped to make “foresighted decisions that would benefit the overall community for the next 75 years”, but details have yet to emerge.

Older citizens hoped the FNC would study any changes before they became law.

Another concern for fishermen is the rules and restrictions being introduced on their catches, making it harder for them to make a living from the sea.

“The Jumeirah shore is constantly being re-landscaped. It’s great for real estate developers and everyone else. What about us and everyone who has been making a living from the sea for years? We cannot fish in abundant areas any more,” said Marwan Mohamed Hasan, 39, from Jumeirah.

“Whatever money I put into equipment and tools I can no longer make up for with sales. Fishing, and before that pearl diving, has always been a pillar of our community but we are slowly having to rethink our lives,” he said.

The Government had been providing fishermen with basic assistance and allowances, but Mr Hasan said he felt this may not be enough to ameliorate their situation.

Other captains hoped for better provisions from social welfare schemes, especially for fishermen’s widows.

Abdulrahman Khamis, 37, said his widowed mother had received a stipend when he was a child, but this stopped when he turned 18.

“After that I struggled to find a job and my mum still had the burden of taking care of me and my siblings. As a widow, it’s not an easy task,” Mr Khamis said.

“When a woman’s husband dies, the house is inherited by the children. The children get married and have kids and crowd the house. Where are the widows expected to go?”

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(via The National)