Dubai: Six-year old Reyhan Abbas and his brother Keyhan (5) have never seen the inside of a school. Their parents Mohammad Fehrat Sinkaya Abbas and Ishara Vijetunghe, both Sri Lankans, have not only lost their jobs but have also gone bankrupt and their visas have expired.
As the UAE marks World Humanitarian Day today, Abbas and his wife, who live with their kids in a shared bed space donated by a friend and are fed by generous souls, are desperate for help to tide over their situation. Unaware of their tragic circumstances, the two children greet people with a broad smile. They struggle to learn the letters of the alphabet and doodle on plain papers as their father Abbas tries to homeschool them.
The family wants to fly back home. However, outstanding payments prevent their exit. Abbas said if they pay off rental dues worth Dh52,000, at least his wife will be able to fly back with the children to Sri Lanka.
Narrating how the once-happy family fell into hard times, Abbas told Gulf News: “I was employed since 2008 with a company that sold space at exhibitions and was doing well. However, there was a slump in the market and I lost my job in 2016. I thought I would be able to get another one. But despite my best efforts, things didn’t work out.”
He said his wife Ishara started a modest free zone business importing coconut peat as fertilisers.
“She was doing well and when all else failed, I decided to join her business. That same year a huge consignment of coconut peat, which we had imported from India and Sri Lanka and paid for in advance, got rejected We were stuck with so many containers of coconut peat, and our suppliers had not delivered the quality they had promised in the sample.”
Dh252,000Estimated accumulated debts of the family, including rent and credit cards
For months, the couple struggle to pay off the debt, Abbas said he had draw from his savings to start repaying their debts and soon their business went into a downward spiral.
“My wife’s business became bankrupt in 2017. She served a jail sentence for over 10 months on account of unpaid dues. She had to pay a rental for the facility and was jailed for additional 52 days. We lost everything as the apartment we stayed was rented in her name. She even got a travel ban as owed Dh52,000 in rental dues. I also accumulated credit card debts worth Dh200,000. With no job in sight, I do not know how I am ever going to repay this money or go back home,” said Abbas.
Albert George Hettiaratchy, manager of the Sri Lankan Welfare Association, which is trying to help the family, told Gulf News: “We can confirm that Abbas and his family are in dire straits. His is a genuine case and we have been trying to provide food and other basic necessities to them.”
He said the Sri Lankan Consulate has issued them temporary passports for their exit and the association is willing to provide them free air tickets and speak to the immigration authorities about their overstay fines. But before that, they needed to clear their debts for which are they were earnestly appealing for help.