x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Tragic widow may have to leave UAE

Mohammed Saif Al Abdouli's widow says she may be forced to leave the UAE when her residency visa expires next year, even though she is a mother to seven Emirati children.

DUBAI // A woman whose Emirati husband's death last week sparked controversy for the Ministry of Social Affairs may be forced to leave the country in a year.

Mohammed Saif Al Abdouli, 33, died in Fujairah on September 27, leaving a wife and seven children. He had financial problems, high blood pressure and was diabetic.

Health officials in the province said Mr Al Abdouli had suffered a stroke but his family insisted it was the stress of dealing with the Ministry of Social Affairs while trying to get his social-welfare payments that killed him.

After his death, a committee was established by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to investigate the case.

Now his widow Umm Hassan, who is not a UAE national, says she may be forced to leave the country next year when her visa expires.

"I am on a resident visa which is expiring," said Umm Hassan, 33. "I don't know what I will do when it expires. All of my children have [Emirati] nationality but I don't."

She did not want to divulge her nationality but said she had not been granted UAE citizenship. Although exceptions can be made under the Immigration Law, it is unusual for the non-Emirati spouse of an Emirati to be granted citizenship.

Umm Hassan has seven children aged between one and 15, who all automatically took their father's nationality at birth.

"The kids are OK but what can I do? I have to raise them, it's my duty," she said.

Umm Hassan said her children did not understand their financial situation.

"They tell me, 'Mum, we want milk, we want sandals for school'," she said. "I tell them 'inshallah', but they don't know that I don't have [money]."

A woman from Mr Al Abdouli's village said she knew the family needed help.

"I have been to the funeral and visited their house," she said. "They are living in tough conditions. The house is only made up of a small carpet, no blinds on the windows and one old TV set. He has left behind him seven children, and they need help."

Mr Al Abdouli's cousin, Khaled, 30, said in the last two months before his death Mohammed was asked to provide papers proving his unemployment to the ministry.

But the paperwork was not being processed on time and was repeatedly lost, his cousin said.

Khaled said Mr Al Abdouli provided the ministry with all of the papers except his security clearance because of a financial case against him.

"He was delayed because of the ministry," he said. "Even if he was coming short with papers, they should have dealt with him differently despite the regulations.

"Directors should go out there and reach out to people, and not sit in their office and sign papers saying they received a case."

Khaled said his cousin had made some wrong choices in life: he left high school early to join the military, fell into a bad crowd, took out bank loans and then resigned after a few years.

Khaled said Mr Al Abdouli took loans from Emirates NBD and was in debt by more Dh300,000.

Emirates NBD was not willing to comment on Mr Al Abdouli's case.

"But he tried to redeem himself," Khaled said, explaining how Mr Al Abdouli completed his International Computer Driving Licence. "And when he tried to come back, no one helped him."

The public has been quick to respond to the story. It has ignited much debate and divided opinions about resources available to Emiratis in the Northern Emirates.

"I don't think his death is related to what the country did or didn't give him," said Aisha Bu Thani, 34, an Emirati. "People are just trying to create disorder through politics. I am not with them.

"There are many who are like Abdouli: what about them?"

aalhaddad@thenational.ae