Locked down and locked out; Scotsman homeless and stranded in Dubai
After a series of hardships, British national Malcolm David Faren finds himself penniless and on the street in UAE, with no visa and no passport and no way to go home
Jasmin and father, Malcolm, hopeful for his return to Scotland.
Malcolm David Faren’s family only knows he’s alive when he is able to get access to free Wi-Fi. The 63-year-old father of four from Dundee, Scotland has been homeless off and on since 2016, and is currently sheltering in an abandoned building somewhere in Dubai. “Dad is living on the streets while the whole country is locking down over Covid-19” Says Malcolm’s daughter, law graduate Jasmin, “He is not allowed to be outside, but he has no place to go, and he is banned from coming home to the UK. It is an unbearable situation.”
Malcolm and his family had lived in the Gulf region since 1995, spending most of that time in Dubai. Malcolm held management positions with Kodak, Agfa and Konica over the years, and his wife Lisa worked for Qatar Airways. They put their kids through international schools and had no problems for 25 years. But, when Lisa’s job transferred to Qatar in 2011, and Malcolm stayed behind in Dubai – the place he’d called home for so long – a downward spiral began.
He lost his job and had difficulty securing a new one. A previous landlord tried to cash a security cheque for a full year’s rent after the family had already vacated the premises, and new tenants moved in. Needless to say, the cheque bounced. Soon, Malcolm was struggling financially, living with friends, and facing police complaints over the bounced cheque and other debts. Whenever Malcolm was able to find work, he paid what he could while eking out a subsistence, but eventually he was arrested over the financial cases and went to prison.
When Malcolm was released at the beginning of 2019, after serving several months, he thought the ordeal was over; but that is not how these cases work in the UAE. The cases were all converted to civil charges and, despite having completed his jail sentence, Malcolm was now subjected to new court judgments requiring him to pay his accusers over AED 100,000. His passport had been confiscated upon his initial arrest and never returned, his visa had expired, and he was placed under a travel ban until the money is paid – even though he is barred from working and has no means to earn a salary.
CEO of Detained in Dubai and Due Process International, Radha Stirling, says Malcolm’s situation is tragic, but not unusual. “The practice of requiring post-dated security cheques is officially not allowed in the UAE, but no long-term financial transactions occur without it. This is a recipe for disaster for account holders; those to whom the cheques are written can opt to cash them at any time, almost certainly guaranteeing that it will bounce, and the writer of the cheque will be charged with a crime. Once they are charged, they become immediately incapable of paying whatever amount is demanded, as, like Malcolm, their passports are confiscated, visas often expire or are cancelled, and they cannot work. Cases like these easily account for the majority of inmates in UAE jails at any given time. Jonathan Castle, another British citizen, suffered a similar dilemma”
Malcolm’s family have reached out to the British embassy on several occasions with no response, Malcolm himself even walked across Dubai to the embassy seeking help, only to be turned away. “We cannot even get accurate information about the cases against my father,” Jasmin says, “Every court hearing is conducted in Arabic, and no one ever explains what is happening. The indifference of the consular officials is absolutely abysmal. My Dad has already served his time for the supposed offences, he is literally living hand to mouth now. We try to send him money to survive, but even that is difficult because he has no I.D. They have given him no recourse, no options to resolve the situation, and we are desperate for him to come home. He is homeless in a foreign country during a pandemic, and our government is doing nothing to help him.”
Stirling has followed up with the British embassy, FCO, and Malcolm’s MP, and is calling upon the Dubai government to demonstrate compassion, “We know from over 12 years of experience assisting expats in the UAE that consular staff can help a great deal, particularly in cases like Malcolm’s, and we have witnessed compassionate intervention by Sheikh Mohammed in a number of cases. Malcolm is not trying to evade paying whatever debts he owes, but he will only have the capability to fulfil these obligations once he is back in the UK and able to work. He has suffered enormously for years on end, and quite frankly, we are worried about his health an d safety at this point. He is an elderly man forced to live in an abandoned building; he has a granddaughter he has never met, he is his parents’ only son and his father just turned 90, and he has been denied any path to a resolution. The UK government needs to address this situation, and the government of Dubai has it in their power to intervene and let Malcolm come home to his family. It is atrocious to perpetually punish him with such deprivation over financial grievances he is not even allowed to solve.”
Malcom is father to Jasmine, 25, Stephanie, 30, Sam, 35
Malcolm’s situation comes after American DAVID OLIVER and MORAG KOUSSA who were both released following unfair debt detention. Detained in Dubai was key to securing their freedom, and bringing international attention to their situations, as well as persuading relevant government officials to act.
Founded in 2008, Detained in Dubai is an organisation that has campaigned against legal abuse in the UAE and Gulf region on behalf of expats and tourists for over 12 years. Its founder and CEO, Radha Stirling, is the leading international commentator on the justice systems in the Gulf, a pioneer advocate for reform of Interpol, and a sought after analyst for Western policy makers.