Housing trends and prospects for marginalized populations in Al Ain City, UAE
This paper discusses housing trends and prospects of marginalized populations in Al Ain city, United Arab Emirates. Marginalized populations in Al Ain city are workers coming from developing countries looking for better living conditions and high income to support their families. In this rich oil country, they are confronting challenges of scarcity of affordable housing and expensive living conditions. One group lives in slum areas while another group lives in neighboring Buraimi city. Al Ain governmental agencies are trying to solve these problems by building affordable housing for non-citizens.
The aim of this paper is to discuss prospects and possibilities for housing these marginalized populations. Al Ain Town Planning Department provided data, statistics, and surveys prepared by the department. Other information and figures used in this paper were collected by the author through several visits to the sites and interviews with informants.
Housing trends of two groups of workers are discussed in this paper. The first group of marginalized populations, composed mainly of clerical workers, is residing in nearby Buraimi city in the Sultanate of Oman because of the availability of affordable housing dwellings. Many residents of Oman are working in Al Ain city crossing the borders several times daily. This daily migration from one country to another is pausing a serious problem for the government of the UAE, especially in the absence of control check points between the two countries. The second group of marginalized populations is composed of manual workers who are living on city skirts in informal settlements and slums. The informal housing slums occupied by daily foreign workers are a social and health hazard to the rest of the city. The slums are located behind a mountain separating them from the rest of the town. The streets are too narrow for police or ambulance cars to go through them. The residents have their own social network and conflict solving councils. Many of the residents are illegal immigrants and hide in the slums for protection. Incidents of social conflicts occurred between residing groups were very alarming to the rest of the community.
This paper stresses the urgency to recognize the housing needs of marginalized populations in Al Ain city. Gulf countries, with their high income and low populations, depend on less fortunate developing countries for supply of workers and work force. In order to keep a healthy interaction between community groups, housing schemes developed by the government should recognize the needs of all members of the society: permanent and temporary alike. Comprising all social groups in governmental housing programs is a must. The needs of large number of foreigners should be recognized in order to provide healthy and appropriate housing environment for them to live and produce.