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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

UAE Helping Hands: company's collapse leaves family on the breadline

Dad racks up Dh72,000 of debt after salary goes unpaid and visas withdrawn

Rafat Mahmoud needs financial help to support his family. Rafat did not want his face shown for the picture. Antonie Robertson / The National
Rafat Mahmoud needs financial help to support his family. Rafat did not want his face shown for the picture. Antonie Robertson / The National

Rafat Mahmoud, his wife and his five children live in a small studio in Sharjah. None of his children – the eldest of which is nine years old – have ever gone to school.

If not for the help of a few friends, the family would have died of starvation after Mr Mahmoud lost his job and he struggled to support his family.

“It all started when the company I had been working for since 2001 shut down,” said Mr Mahmoud, 40, who lost his job in 2015.

He had a steady job in sales at a private company in Sharjah, but when it ran into financial difficulties his family’s future was plunged into uncertainty.

“Before they ended our contracts, they stopped paying us regularly and sometimes they wouldn’t pay us for up to for six months,” he said.

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Mr Mahmoud had to take out a loan from the bank to pay his rent since his company stopped paying him. His wife had also just given birth and was pregnant with another child. He owes the hospital Dh28,000 in medical fees. The bills have begun to accumulate and he now has two court cases against him.

“I have found another job but because I have cases against me, they couldn’t transfer my visa,” he said.

Since then, his visa and his children’s visas have expired. His youngest daughters also don’t have a birth certificate because of his unpaid medical bills. His youngest daughter is just four months old.

They named her Myassar, in the hopes their lives would get easier. In English, Myassar means "made easier", he said. However, because the couple owe the hospital money they were refused a birth certificate.

“I am stuck, as I need a job to pay off my debts but I can’t get a job because I have a case against me.

“Life has been so difficult for us. I do odd jobs and practically everything so I can earn some money to put food on the table. But I want to send my family back home to Jordan at least and I’ll stay back and try to pay off my debts. I can’t do anything and our lives keep getting more complicated and difficult.

“We have no one who can help us back home and I don’t know what to do or where to go anymore.”

Hisham Al Zahrani, manager of Zakat and Social Services at Dar Al Ber, said Mr Mahmoud needs substantial funds to settle his debt and get his life back on track.

“In total, Mr Mahmoud, needs up to Dh72,000 to settle all his debts so he can find a job, renew his family’s visas and put his daughters in school,” he said.

“We have rented out a one-bedroom apartment for his family but it is still too small for such a large family.

“We hope readers can help us pay off his debts so Mr Mahmoud can start depending on himself and supporting his family.

“The problems with debt cases is that you can’t get hired because you have a pending court case and so you can’t pay off the debt, so your life is basically ruined - as is the case with Mr Mahmoud. "