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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

UAE helping hands: Veteran UAE expat left homeless and in debt after job loss

Leiga Michael has not seen her children or ailing mother in two years and desperately needs help to pay off debts and return home to Romania

Ligia Michael has found herself in Dh70,000 of debt after losing her job and desperately wants to return home to Romania to see her children and ailing mother. Pawan Singh / The National
Ligia Michael has found herself in Dh70,000 of debt after losing her job and desperately wants to return home to Romania to see her children and ailing mother. Pawan Singh / The National

Leiga Michael just wants to go back home to Romania to be with her children. She has not seen her 18-year-old son, Christopher, and daughter Marry, 11, in more than two years and, without a helping hand, she will end up behind bars very soon.

For 22 years the 45-year-old was living happily in the UAE, in a small apartment with her two children, but today she is homeless, living on the streets of Dubai.

The HR manager had a successful career and a comfortable job up until she lost the job in 2015.

“I never imagined that this would happen to me,” she says. “After I lost my job I could not support my two children or pay for rent.

“I sent my children back to Romania to be with my sister and I remained here to settle my bills.”

Ms Michael, who in her years in the UAE did not even have so much as a traffic fine, found out very quickly that, without a job, she could not pay her rent.

“The Land Department filed a case against me and I owe them Dh70,000,” she says.

And because of the case, she cannot secure a job to pay her debt or go back home.

“There is no hope for me if no one helps me. It looks like I am just going to go to jail,” says Ms Michael, sobbing. “I don’t have money, so I can’t buy food. Sometimes my friends take me in for a few days but then I have to leave because they have families. They let me in to shower and give me food.”

She says she continues to look for a job and that "employers tell me I am over-qualified but I am willing to do anything".

"I just need any job so I can have a steady income to help me pay my debts and go back home.”

Her husband, who divorced her four years ago, offers little support and her mother is unwell, so she fears she will not get the chance to see her again.

“I just want to see my children and my mum in the little time she has left in this world. I've been in this country for almost 23 years. I've never had any problems with the authorities. I can’t believe that I am in this situation now. I need help and to be with my children. There is no point of me being here without a job but I am stuck here,” she says.

Hisham Al Zahrani, manager of Zakat and Social Services at Dar Al Ber, said: “Ms Leiga is stuck in a vicious cycle. With a case against her, she can't get a job even if one is available and, without a job, she cannot pay her debts and so will end up in jail.

"We need donations to help her settle her debts of about Dh70,000 and then she can go back to Romania to be with her children and mother. Today she lives off the charity of friends, is homeless and away from her loved ones. We hope our readers can help her get her life on track.”

How to donate

Send “thenational” to the following numbers or call the hotline on: 0502955999
2289 – Dh10
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