x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Settle court cases outside the airport

There are better ways to addressing debt cases than arresting individuals at airport immigration posts.

From passport scans to bank information, from driving licences to health insurance, citizens and residents have a significant amount of personal information logged onto official databases. Identification of individuals should be easier than ever before. And yet certain security practices remain anachronisms in a digital age.

As The National reported yesterday, many people have had their travel plans thrown into chaos because they have been confused with other individuals who had pending court cases, more often than not regarding unpaid debt. Now, FNC members are calling on Hadif Al Dhaheri, the Minister of Justice, to clarify why court warrants are not linked to passports or Emirates ID cards. At present, warrants are linked only to a traveller's first three names.

"Mohammed, Obaid, Rashid, these are all common names," said Musabah Al Kitbi, an FNC member from Sharjah. "One Emirati was arrested on a Thursday then released the following Sunday when his identity was cleared." A law passed in 2007 would have required ID documents to be used in these cases, but it has not been implemented.

The result is that court cases - including those involving the proper parties - are addressed at the last minute at immigration desks in the airports. This may prevent some people with pending cases from absconding, but it also creates unnecessary headaches.

In cases of mistaken identity, it's simply a matter of bureaucratic hassle - although the cases can be frustratingly difficult to resolve. But in many cases, people who do have warrants would have chosen to resolve them before reaching the airport, but they simply didn't know about them.

Establishing a better system of notifying debtors (and anyone else with outstanding warrants) would be useful. In cases of debt, creditors who file cases with the police have a responsibility to notify the concerned persons. Indeed, that is more likely to result in repayment than a process of detentions and protracted court procedures.

If authorities can link outstanding warrants to Emirates ID or passports, presumably a system could be put in place for people to check on their own status. In most cases, these issues should be dealt with before the airport.