I’m ashamed, I’m embarrassed and I’m scared. I don’t know where to turn or how to even start unraveling the mess I’ve created. All my husband and I want to do is come back to America, my home for a fresh start.
I’m a 30-something American expat who has lived in Dubai for over a 7 years. I’m well educated and, until just one week ago, I had a good job with an international firm.
Five banks, three loans and four credit cards, over AED 650,000 ($175,000) of combined debt and monthly repayments totaling more than what I was earning in a month. When my husband was still employed 1 year ago we were on our way to eliminating our debt. My job alone may not have covered all my payments but I was able to skip certain payments in order to be able to put food on the table.
I’m not a bad person nor is my husband. We ended up taking out all these loans because of several misfortunes in our families that we felt we had a responsibility to fix. Unfortunately they are all as helpless as us and can not lend a hand in this situation.
Now you may be wondering "how does someone acquire that much debt". This is the total sum of 1 car loan, 2 personal loans and several credit cards that were used to cover my husband's two emergency surgeries, sending money overseas to my husbands family in Syria, and a start-up business that ended horribly. We still blame ourselves for thinking we can handle it all and for not properly calculating things through. The reality is debt in the UAE is like death sentence if your stuck in it for too long.
My phone rings none stop with telephone calls from collection departments and I have been threatened with legal action, travel bans and jail more times than I can even begin remember.Worst of all, though, is dealing with the regular verbal abuse that the debt collectors dish out. Unlike in the western world in Dubai debt collectors are free to say anything they want to you and call as many times as they want (minus cursing).
Last week when I was trying to explain that I’m currently unemployed and am looking for a new job so I can resume my payments a bank representative said this was not his problem and I needed to find a way to pay today or he will send my case to the police.
Continual harassment and strong-arm tactics seem to be usual practice and, according to the collections departments, there is absolutely no-one in any of the banks whom I can talk to about trying to negotiate a settlement plan. ‘Pay up or else’ seems to be the only type of settlement plan on offer.
In the UAE when you sign up for any credit card or loan you are required to sign a blank security check. After 3 months of non-payment these banks have the right to cash the bank checks for the total amount on the card. If these checks bounce then they have to right to report this to the Dubai police. Bouncing a check in the UAE is considered a criminal offense and will land you in jail.
Now you maybe asking yourself well where is my husband in all of this, well he has been unemployed for almost 1 year with no hope of finding a job. My own husband is helpless in this situation and can not help me in anyway as he holds a Syrian Passport. With the current situation in Syria and so many having fled to the gulf areas there are no more jobs available to them. Every job he has applied for he has been denied solely on the fact that he holds a Syrian passport and getting a residency visa is unobtainable in the UAE. While he was let go from his last job last year on the grounds of "redundancy" they have been kind enough to keep his residency visa valid until he is able to find another job.
You may also be thinking "well just leave the country and come back home to the USA and find a solution". We are banned from leaving the UAE until our debts have been paid and we have obtained clearance letters from all the banks.
We have reached the point of no return and have completely run out of all options. We would truly appreciate any form of financial donations even 1 dollar can add up and go a long way for us. Your kindness would mean the world to us. We just need to find my way out of this debt and hopefully be able to go home to America to have a fresh start.