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Travel ban on loan defaulters in UAE leaves expatriate families stranded

Welfare groups repatriated over 100 children left stranded as their fathers faced charges for financial crimes

Image Credit: Picture for illustrative purpose
Trapped: Many of those in jail for fiscal crimes are usually the sole breadwinners of the family
XPRESS

Abu Dhabi: Travel bans on loan and credit card defaulters have left many expatriate families stranded in the UAE.

With husbands or fathers either at large or facing charges related to financial crimes, many women and children are at the mercy of welfare organisations.

Social workers told XPRESS that families impacted by financial woes are forced to stay back because of unfavourable situations in their home countries. They choose to weather it out in the host country despite repatriation offers from NGOs and social organisations.

“Many of them have borrowed heavily from relatives or loan sharks in India. They know their families will be heckled if they return alone,” said a social worker in Abu Dhabi who did not want to be named.

Fathima, a 28-year-old Indian mother, describes her plight as being “between the devil and the deep sea.” Her husband has been serving a jail term in Abu Dhabi since February 2013 for defaulting on two bank loans amounting to more than Dh1.5 million.

“My husband has mortgaged our ancestral property in Kerala to pay off part of his loans. His three brothers have equal right over the property, and obviously our relationships are strained beyond repair,” said Fathima, about her predicament in going back to India with her son.

roughing it out

Her husband has another six months to finish his prison term.

She said she stays with a relative in Mussafah, and babysits two children to meet expenses.

The number of expatriates falling into the debt trap of bank loans and credit cards in the UAE are still high. Easy availability of credit is one of the main reasons. Most people XPRESS spoke to said they were ‘brainwashed’ and ‘tempted’ into taking loans from banks that promised hundreds of thousands of dirhams.

Manikandan, (name changed on request) who ran an electro-mechanical shop in Abu Dhabi said he is stranded in the UAE because of bank loans.

“I served a jail term of 11 months from October 2012 to September 2013 for defaulting on bank loans. I still owe almost a Dh1 million to three banks. I have a travel ban till I clear my debts and hence cannot leave the country anytime soon,” he said, adding he had the good sense to send his wife and two kids to India before he surrendered to Abu Dhabi Police in October 2012. “I have a supportive family and they are safe in India while I try to sort out the financial mess here,” said Manikandan. He said he was brainwashed into taking a business loan of about Dh1 million from three banks in 2009. “We expanded the business, but it did not bring any windfall,” said the 35-year-old.

Welfare organisations have been coming to the aid of families whose breadwinners are in jail. K. Kumar, convenor of Indian Community Welfare Committee, the welfare arm of the Indian Consulate in Dubai, said his organisation helped repatriate over 100 children from the UAE in 2012-2013.

“They belong to families who are caught in a debt trap. Their sponsors are either in jail or reported absconding by banks,” said Kumar.

“Our first concern is to help these children continue their education in India while their parents serve a jail term, or fight a legal battle,” said Kumar.

The welfare committee has set up a fund of Dh1 million to repatriate families of Indian expats who are knee-deep in debt.

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