Image via WikipediaIt'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policy regarding cheques which has been basically a two-strike deal: you bounce two cheques and banking facilities are withdrawn from you.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.