Monday, 19 July 2010


A homeless man in ParisImage via Wikipedia
It's getting hard to move around the city these days without tripping over homeless Brits sleeping on the streets. With some of the world's best journalists on the case, ranging from the brilliant mind that is Johann Hari to the mighty BBC, everyone's been buying, seemingly unquestioningly, into a homeless Brit sleeping on the street in recession-hit Dubai story.

This one, the fifth most viewed video on the Beeb's site at the time of writing, tends to ring oddly when struck lightly with the hammer of credulity.

Now don't get me wrong. Dubai, the UAE, can be a hard place to find yourself in financial trouble. The place has always been uncompromising about debt - and has always implemented a strict policy regarding cheques which has been basically a two-strike deal: you bounce two cheques and banking facilities are withdrawn from you. And when you ever bounce one, the person you bounced it on has the right to go to the police who will treat it as a criminal case.

This has always been the fact - certainly over the time I have lived here.

You'd have to have some sympathy with a system that governs a 90% expatriate population requiring that someone remain in the country until their debts here are duly settled. Without clear extradition treaties and an effective system of managing international debtors, you'd have to manage the problem locally. And that means requiring someone to stay in the country until their debt is managed.

A lot of people got caught by the downturn and the subsequent wave of redundancies and there is no doubt at all that many suffered unexpected hardship - and that many also fled the country rather than face the unpleasant consequences of default. You can't deny that - and we're still seeing a number of people leaving here as well as a constant slew of abandoned vehicles - to the point where workers cut the tarmac out around this pair while digging up a car park!

But with families at home as well as friends, colleagues and a number of philanthropically-minded activists working to help labourers and others here (incidentally, didn't hear the BBC talking to any desperate labourers, did you?), nobody, surely, has to sleep on the street. You'll find less people sleeping on the street in the UAE than you will in Watford.

At the same time, anyone taking on significant debt here knows the law and the way in which it is applied - and if they don't I'd be amazed at their naiveté. I'm not saying the way in which debt is handled here is necessarily right - but that it is fact. You want to live and work out here? It's the deal you took on when you came out.

I think our media is all too willing to buy the debt-hit Brit sleeps in the street angle - and that this story deserved more scrutiny before it ran.

Enhanced by Zemanta


KJ said...

The best advice I ever got was from dad when he said never buy anything you cannot afford in cash (car notwithstanding if in limits).

Anonymous said...

I've actually spoken to the guy. He was screwed because when he changed jobs his ex-employer told the bank he was no longer employed by them but neglected to tell them he had another job so they called in his loans and credit card and demanded full payment. He was in negotiation with them and in the process of getting his new visa when he went home for Christmas, then got arrested at the airport - because his passport was then with the police his new employers couldn't process his visa and started incurring huge fines from the labour dept - the only way for them to stop that happening was for them to repsort him as absconding and cancel his contract.

So he can't get a job without a passport, he can't pay off the bank without a job, and he can't get his passport back without paying off the bank.

Its all very well for those of us who've been here a long time to say we'd never be so stupid but remember, he'd only been here a few months, hadn't made that many friends and no one warned him that if he changed jobs the bank might freak out. Let face it, where else in the world does the bank call in your loans when you go to a better paying job?

I think he's been pretty niaive and probably a bit stupid but no one deserves this. No one.

Seabee said...

I was just reading the thread about this on

One response was:

"Flatmate knows the bloke in the above video, it's mostly BS, he doesn't sleep rough, he put too many holidays on credit card, had a few problems with the bank and has lost his passport but he's nowhere near as blameless as he makes out. Sold his story for £15k. Another money grabber selling out."

As usual there are plenty of different versions of what's going on.

I question how his clothes look so clean and pressed after 12 weeks sleeping rough, especially if what he's wearing in the clip is all he has. And if he has more where are they, and the rest of his belongings?

Stained said...

I'm surprised to see he has survived the heat if he's such a newbie to Dubai. I've been here too long and still have difficulty dealing with a whole day outside.

Maybe he should have had a heat stroke and told his story from a hospital bed. Would have made the story more dramatic...

HE said...

7DAYS to the rescue....again;

"A homeless man struggling to pay off his debts has been thrown a lifeline by his bank just hours after his plight was featured in 7DAYS."

Gotham city has a new hero, move aside Batman - 7DAYS is here!! Yes 7DAYS! Published only 5 days a week but use the number 7 because they can!

Anonymous said...

Last I heard he was actually staying with friends but last time the bank found this out they started phoning the friends demanding they repaid his loans and threatening them because they were "harbouring someone who's visa had expired"

Anonymous said...

After reading the article online my first thought was 'That is the best work of fiction I have read in a long time'. Having read your post, I agree there is a lot more that is being left unsaid. Having read the comments of those who 'know' him I am even more suspicious of the story. It is good to read that '7 Days', published on 5 days but capitalising on the 7 day week, AND the BBC are behind him. I have to say he was a little dim to be caught out. He has my sympathy but I have to ask why is his wife, family and friends not helping? Not to mention the embassy.

From The Dungeons

Book Marketing And McNabb's Theory Of Multitouch

(Photo credit: Wikipedia ) I clearly want to tell the world about A Decent Bomber . This is perfectly natural, it's my latest...