Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 August 2020

Syrian family saved from homelessness by Abu Dhabi officials

The family is among thousands of people helped by the Human Rights Office last year

Fatma Albedwawi, head of the human rights section at the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department. Pawan Singh / The National 
Fatma Albedwawi, head of the human rights section at the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department. Pawan Singh / The National 

Basima Arab was pleading her case at a government office in Abu Dhabi when eviction enforcement agents arrived at the door of her home.

The Syrian, 74, owed her landlord Dh200,000 in rent but with no steady income and a disabled husband, a widowed daughter and four grandchildren to care for, Ms Arab had no way of coming up with the money.

As she sat with Fatima Al Bedwawi, head of Abu Dhabi Judicial Department’s Human Rights Office, Ms Arab's daughter called to say they had been given a few hours to leave the place they had called home for decades.

Ms Al Bedwawi made some calls and managed to convince the landlord to put the court-ordered eviction on hold, buying Ms Arab some time.

“She came to us completely helpless. They had to leave immediately,” Ms Al Bedwawi said.

She came to us completely traumatised and suffering from severe anxiety

Fatima Al Bedwawi, Human Rights Office

“Her husband is 78 and cannot move, her son-in-law was killed in the war in Syria and three of her grandsons have not been to school for years because they could not afford the fees.”

Ms Arab's case is one of 199 taken on by the human rights office last year.

About three quarters of these cases involved non-Emiratis who appealed to the department to settle outstanding debts, cancel deportation orders or help with other financial problems.

Since its establishment in 2011 by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, the office has helped tens of thousands of residents and spent millions of dirhams to support those with no where else to turn.

Ms Arab and her husband lived in the UAE, where he worked, for years. Their home in Syria was destroyed in the war so they remained in Abu Dhabi after he retired. Her daughter and grandchildren moved in a few years ago, after her son-in-law died.

“We spoke to the executive department to suspend the eviction order for one week to give us a chance to save the family,” Ms Al Bedwawi said.

Although the landlord had the right to kick the family out, he agreed to delay the eviction while Ms Al Bedwawi worked with charities to find the Syrians a home.

In the meantime, the family was set up in a furnished flat in Khalidiya and they secured a monthly income through the Zakat Fund.

The family will continue to receive the money until Ms Arab’s daughter is able to find a job that can support them all.

Ms Arab's daughter moved from Syria to Abu Dhabi after her husband was killed.

“Her eldest son is also looking for work once he finishes high school," Ms Al Bedwawi said.

Meanwhile, the office is working on enrolling the younger boys, aged 5 to 14, in local schools, but it has not been easy.

“All their school documents are back in Syria and most records have been destroyed by the war; this is a problem we have with Syrian children, they don’t have their school documents with them," Ms Al Bedwawi said.

Andrea Najm Al Dilos, from Russia, was also helped by the same department last year.

She spent six months in jail after her husband registered their flat tenancy in her name and fled the country, having not paid rent and leaving her with a Dh102,000 debt.

The landlord filed a case against Ms Al Dilos and she was jailed.

She approached the Human Rights Office for help.

“She came to us completely traumatised and suffering from severe anxiety,” Ms Al Bedwawi said.

“We spoke to the landlord and he turned out to be one of many heirs who owned the property. Once he learnt about her situation and health status, he pardoned her from his share of the amount.”

The office also contacted Abu Dhabi Police’s Faraj Fund, which pays the debts of prisoners. The fund agreed to donate Dh40,000.

A private benefactor who learnt of her case also donated Dh10,000, clearing the woman of her debt.

“This is what we do. We co-ordinate with other parties, whether they were under the judicial department or outside sources like charities and the police, to rescue such cases," Ms Al Bedwawi said.

Updated: January 5, 2020 11:14 AM

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