Mouna Laouar, 48, is unemployed with two of her three children unable to attend school due to unpaid fees. Image Credit: Pankaj Sharma/Gulf News

Dubai: A mother of three has been left with huge debts and unpaid bills of over Dh400,000 when her husband abandoned the family and returned to his home country.

Algerian-American Mouna, 48, who has lived in Dubai since 2012 has been struggling to keep her family afloat ever since her Algerian husband disappeared in 2016 while she was at work.

Soon after he left, Mouna discovered that he had failed to pay rent, school fees, bank loans and debts for over a year, leaving her heavily in debt with multiple legal actions against her.

Now, Mouna is unemployed with two of her three children unable to attend school due to outstanding fees.

“I went to jail, I had to leave my kids for several days and I have lost three jobs. But what’s hurting me most is that they are at home and not going to school,” Mouna  said.

 I came to Dubai on a work visa a few months before the rest of my family, so the apartment lease was in my name. Bank loans and credit cards were also taken in my name as I had a stable salary. I didn’t think much of it as he was my husband.”

 - Mouna | Algerian-American resident 

How it all started

Mouna told Gulf News, her husband used to work in the real estate sector where he did not maintain a stable income, and relied on commissions.

“I had first come to Dubai a few months before the rest of my family on a work visa, so the apartment lease was in my name. After that, bank loans and credit cards were taken under my name since I had a stable salary. I didn’t think much of it at the time, since he was my husband,” she said.

However, Mouna said her “gut feeling” told her something was seriously wrong and that she couldn’t help but sense that he would run away one day.

She was proved right as the man indeed ran away leaving her to raise the three children who are 15, 11 and eight years-old. Mouna’s life began to crash before her eyes starting with a notice from the land department ordering her to vacate her home immediately.

“The landlord had taken the cheques to the police and the final judgement from the land department to vacate was issued with the order to pay the full outstanding amount, which was over Dh140,000,” said Mouna.

Several months after Mouna vacated the property and moved into a smaller apartment, she was escorted from her workplace by police and was kept at the police station for four days for her outstanding rent payments.

After a court case ruled Mouna could be released when 10 per cent of her dues were paid to her previous landlord, she was supported by her colleagues who had raised money to help her.

“I had to leave the kids with the maid, and told them I had a health problem and had to remain in hospital for several days. They were already dealing with being abandoned by their dad and I could not make things worse,” she said.

However, soon after, Mouna was laid off by her employer.

A constant struggle

Desperately searching for job in administration, things finally started to look up for Laouar when she landed a good-paying job at a reputable company in Dubai.

“I started paying off what I could such as late school fees, bus fees and some of the loans to the banks, also with the help of my father, who was living back in Algeria. He did the best he could considering the difference in currency and was a great support emotionally,” she explained.

However, her bad luck did not end there. After five short months, Mouna was suddenly dismissed by her employer.

“When I was asked about my husband, I did not want to disclose my personal issues to any employer but as soon as they found out I was laid off. My situation had cost me my job again,” she said.

Just before Ramadan 2018, Mouna managed to find another job, which was also unfortunately short-lived.

“I worked longer hours than others and took my job very seriously — I hate to be absent or late, and I always tried to detach from my problems — but they were digging into my personal business and when they found out, I was dismissed again on the spot,” she said.

After losing her third job in August 2018, Mouna was left with nothing but her faith.

“If the most powerful people tell me they will help me, I would just ask for a job that is stable. One who helps with money can do it once or twice, but one who gives you a job can help you sustain your life for a long time,” she said.

The mother of three has managed to transfer sponsorship for two of her children, however, one remains illegal due to outstanding cases against her.

Still, Mouna has not given up and is till eager to find a job in order to make ends meet for her children’s sake.