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  • Writer's pictureDetained in Dubai

UAE banks increasing aggression towards debtors during Coronavirus crisis

Aggressive. UAE banks and their agents have been increasing debt victim harassment during the Coronavirus pandemic

Around the world, governments, banks, landlords and utility companies are doing their best to alleviate the hardships suffered by people due to the economic fallout of long lockdowns and job losses. Rather than adopting this spirit, the UAE creditors seem to be increasing their efforts to harass debt victims.

Detained in Dubai has noticed a significant increase in the amount of enquiries per day from desperate former expats being hounded by UAE banks and who feel like they have nowhere else to turn.

“We are not talking about people who took a loan or credit card with no intention of repaying it,” Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai explains. “Most people contacting us have taken a loan or credit card in good faith and serviced the loan for years, never missing payments. Sometimes circumstances change beyond their control, especially in the wake of the Coronavirus and associated economic downturn, and rather than risk being jailed in the UAE for missing payments, most people flee the country so that they can renegotiate from safety.

“Their financial situation has often changed to the point where they are earning maybe 10% of what their wage was in Dubai if they are lucky enough to be working at all. However the overwhelming trend among people approaching us is that they still want to honour their obligations to the best of their ability.

“UAE banks right now are behaving noticeably more aggressively than usual. We have observed an upswing in the amount of Interpol threats. We are also seeing harassment of people both at home and even in their workplace or via contacting colleagues and directors. Friends or family of the victim are also seen as fair game, with banks and debt collectors calling them often many times in one day.

“We are tracking an increase in all tactics, including engagement of UK debt collectors and court hearings, including in one case attempting to prevent an extension being granted for an elderly victim who was presenting with Coronavirus symptoms.

“UAE banking practices are irresponsible even during normal times. Many expats relate experiences of being telephoned up to 10 times a day by bank representatives trying to sell them loans and persuade them to take credit cards, or trying to entice their existing customers to increase their current loans and lines of credit.

“Most of the victims we are helping did not accept credit because of any desire for a fancy ‘Dubai lifestyle’, rather they needed to pay expensive year-in-advance rents or school fees. Despite the lure of high wages and no tax, Dubai can be extremely expensive to live in.

“Right now, when most worldwide creditors are showing leniency, UAE creditors seem to be going in the other direction and ramping up their attacks. The attitude seems to be: ‘We don’t care about your hardship, we want our money’ and especially where the debtor is abroad.

“Using Interpol to detain and extradite debtors to the UAE people is not legal, but the UAE banks know that most victims don’t know how to fight the Red Notice or avoid it altogether. In fact the first many former expats learn about Red Notices is when they are detained at an airport, or even during a random traffic stop and suddenly find themselves in the position of fighting extradition to the UAE.

“In these uncertain times we urge the UAE banks and their agents to show restraint and work with the victims to come to new financial arrangements that they can afford and sustain.

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