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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

UAE Helping Hands: Family’s life quickly spiralled downwards

Life quickly spiralled downwards after Sudanese couple lost their jobs. Now father simply wants to send his children home where they will be able to attend school again, Shireena Al Nowais writes
I M of North Sudan desperately wants to send his family home. However, he needs to pay off the fines to get his wife’s passport back. Alex Atack for The National
I M of North Sudan desperately wants to send his family home. However, he needs to pay off the fines to get his wife’s passport back. Alex Atack for The National

Life quickly spiralled downwards after Sudanese couple lost their jobs. Now father simply wants to send his children home where they will be able to attend school again.

ABU DHABI // Being employed on a per day or per task basis might be appealing to some but it led down a slippery slope to a nightmare for a family who now want nothing more than to go home.

Two years ago, after losing his job of 12 years, I M, 41, was grateful to be offered work by a charity – even more so because his 47-year-old wife had also worked for the same company and had also lost her job.

For the Sudanese couple, the offer of work from the charity meant they could continue living in the UAE, pay their rent and their 15 and nine-year-olds’ school fees.

That turned out not to be the case.

“I was hired as a donations collector but was never given a job contract or a payslip,” said I M.

“We would get paid a few thousand on and off every few months. Sometimes, we would go three or four months without pay.”

Soon the charity asked him to start looking for another job and to be “grateful that they have given him residency”.

With finances a disaster things just got worse. The couple were unable to pay their children’s school fees or rent on their home.

The youngsters were expelled and the family was evicted. They were also unable to renew their residency visa, so they were in the country illegally.

With no other option, they began staying at illegal, cheap shared accommodation, where they remain.

“It was and is still so hard but I know that after hard times, things always get better – this is life,” I M said.

“We just have to be patient and that is the difficult part, being patient throughout the hardships. It will get better, I’m sure.”

What he cannot be so philosophical about is what his children are going through. It has been two years since they were last at school.

“As adults, we can go through anything, it is the children that don’t deserve to go through this,” he said.

“It breaks my heart to see them at home and all the children are going to school. I’ve destroyed their future and their childhood.”

So I M decided to do what anyone in his position would do – send his family back to Sudan. However, again the family suffered a setback.

“We went to immigration and they waived the fines but when they checked the system, they found that the landlord had filed a case against us and my wife was ‘wanted’ for Dh30,000,” the father said. His wife was arrested on the spot.

Three days later, a judge agreed that she be released but their passports were taken as a guarantee. Now the family are trapped. They cannot pay the rent of Dh30,000 owed and Dh50,000 in school fees.

His employers have refused to give I M any official documents and charity organisations will not assist without a document that shows a person’s employment and financial status.

“I just want to send my wife and children back home,” he said.

“They can’t continue living this way. We move from place to place because we can’t afford to pay rent. We stay until they cut the electricity then move again.”

I M’s wife is from Madagascar and has a degree and postgraduate degree in chemistry but cannot find work as she only speaks her native language and Russian.

“I M is looking for another job and he is very grateful to the charity for the residency but he does need more than that,” said Hisham Al Zahrani, manager of zakat and social services at Dar Al Ber Society. “The least is help to pay off his bills so he can send his family back until he finds better employment. The conditions he is living in are unsuitable for children.”

salnuwais@thenational.ae