Dubai: Ever wondered how some UAE residents are living their lives in the emirates with no jobs or source of income? Well, many of them say they have no choice.
Take the case of Indian expat, Madhwaraj Karanth who worked as an administrative assistant earning a Dh8,000 monthly salary in Dubai. The pandemic took away his job and his peace of mind. Needless to say, his life has been falling apart. He is sitting on a debt of nearly Dh100,000, money which he borrowed to pay his rent in Dubai, children’s school fees and other personal expenses. Now he is without a job and his children have been out of school for long. “The company where I was working ceased operations in July. My visa was valid until July 31. The company is not cancelling my visa as they want me to pay my wife and children’s visa money. Until then, they will not cancel our visas. I don’t have the money for this. And I am starting to amass fines.”
Madhwaraj cannot return home either. “How can I? I have to repay my debts, only then can I leave. My parents and my wife’s parents are deceased. We don’t have anyone back home. Not just that, my wife has regular episodes of fainting. Doctors found a blood clot in her brain and in this condition, I cannot leave her alone. I am stuck and I don’t know what to do.”
Madhwaraj’s daughters are in grades 10 and 2 of an Indian school in Dubai. His three-year old son has never been to a nursery or school because the father could not fund his education. “My daughters are unable to attend school due to non-payment of school fees. The problems seem to be never ending. Yet I am hoping for a light at the end of the tunnel.”
“I used part of my savings to pay rent and school fees. Friends have helped me a lot and I owe them money. I need a job, my family visa sorted and my children’s education paid. I will be sorted then.”
Banking on a miracle
A Pakistani family of five in Dubai is in a similar plight. Mehboob Nizamuddin, 48 and Seema Mehboob 37, are hoping for a miracle to bail them out. Their four children are out of school due to non-payment of tuition fees. Their 18-year old son Fahad dreams of getting back to school one day. “I don’t know when that will happen. But I want to go to school just like my friends do.”
Mehboob who worked as a driver for a desert tour company lost his job in 2014. Since then he has been struggling for work. The family sold their gold jewellery to buy visas so they can stay here in the UAE. “My husband was born here. The UAE is our home.”
Seema said the couple do odd jobs to make small money. “We have been getting basic grocery supplies from good Samiritans. I personally have been teaching Quran and Urdu to children. I don’t take money for teaching the Quran but people give me whatever they feel like. We want something good to come out with our lives.”
Unable to relate to things back home
Sudanese expat Lubna is in a similar state. A divorcee with two children aged 9 and 5, she said she cannot think of returning home.
“My children were born here. This is what they have seen as their home. They cannot relate to things back home in Sudan. I will work hard so I can keep them here,” said Lubna who has lost her job and stationary business.
An Indian expat Sundari Sundarrajan, 39, a widow, said she cannot imagine returning home to India. “My mother lives in a hut in Tamil Nadu. We are a poor family. My late husband and I came to Dubai looking for opportunities and helping our family back home. Little did I know we would end up in a tough financial situation,” she said, adding that her husband died nine months ago from kidney failure. “He had a business which failed. I have been living here with my three children. The oldest is in Grade 10. The second child is nine years old and has not been to a school for the last two years.”
Akhtar Anwar, 30, from Mumbai is in a predicament. His Pakistani wife, Aysha, 24 who just delivered their second child last week is distressed as the family is in a dire financial situation. Akhtar was born here in Dubai. The couple, even if they want to go home, have a big problem because of their cross-border ties. Akhtar said he cannot send his wife to India as it is a struggle getting her a visa. The same is the case with him. “It is difficult for me to get a visa to Pakistan. So where do we go? The UAE is home to us.”
Khan, who worked as a public relations officer, also lost his job in early this year. “Now I have a newborn to take care and my older child needs care and attention too. Besides I have my aged parents with me here in UAE. None of us wants to leave and go home.”
Akhtar and his wife are on a visit visa. His parents are on freelance visas. Akhtar’s children don’t have a visa or passport yet. “When I went to get a passport for my older ones, some documents were missing. When they were finally ready, COVID-19 happened.”