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Dubai’s flawed system, and wonderful people
A dispute with his bank led one man to be arrested, lose his job, live on the street, and rely on charity to find a way home. Just another day in Dubai.
August 24, 2010 11:38 by shafeer
Nicholas Warner has been living on the streets of Dubai. He’s now heading back to England, but only thanks to the charity of locals and an expatriate sponsor who helped him recover his passport from the authorities. His situation is a perfect illustration of how flawed Dubai’s system remains.
Warner has been sleeping rough in parks and public areas for around 12 weeks. His problems began when he got into a dispute with Emirates NBD, his bank, over credit card repayments with post-dated cheques. When he went home for Christmas the bank re-classified him as a “debt-skipper”, reports the BBC. But there was a crucial difference between Warner and a skipper: Debt skippers don’t return, and he did.
When he got back to Dubai he was arrested and his passport was seized by police on the authority of the bank. After his release, it seems his employer took a dim view of his run in with the law, and he lost his job. This put him in a catch-22 situation: No income meant he couldn’t repay the debt, and no passport meant no prospect of getting a job (he has to be able to prove he resides here legally). Since the bank would not release his passport until he paid the debt, he was stuck.
After media picked up the story, locals and expats offered him legal assistance, places to stay and money to help pay off his debt, and together they managed to find a way to get his passport released. When that was achieved, they bought him a flight home. He and Emirates NBD are still unable to reach agreement.
“I won’t be coming back to Dubai,” says Warner.
There are two things Kipp notes. First, this is yet another example of Dubai’s flawed system placing punishment ahead of resolution. How is a man expected to repay a debt if he can’t get a job? They could have released his passport but imposed a travel ban to prevent his departure. Though this is of course no guarantee he will find work, it does at least give him a chance of escaping his situation, and the bank a chance of recovering its money.
Second, though Warner may not wish to return to Dubai for obvious reasons, during his absence perhaps he will reflect that, while the Dubai system let him down, the Dubai people most certainly did not.
Do you think there is more to Warner’s story than meets the eye? Are you proud of the people who helped him, angry at the system that seems to have failed him, or a bit of both?