Trapped in Dubai: British expat claims he was left homeless after being hounded by debt collectors in UAE
Jonathan Castle says his life has been "destroyed" after debt collectors left him homeless in Dubai, without the ability to work or leave.
Jonathan Castle was allegedly hounded and threatened by debt collectors and left homeless in Dubai, with the British expat claiming his life has since been "destroyed". Back in 2002, Castle moved to the United Arab Emirates before he accrued over £500,000 (USD 643,000) in credit card debt.
Born in London but raised in Thurso, Caithness, the expat has been subjected to a travel ban that disallows him from leaving the country until his debt is paid. Now, he also has a police case against himself pertaining to the same.
Because of the police complaint, Castle is unable to obtain a work visa, thus leaving him with no way to earn enough money to pay off the debt. Castle said: "I am in a hopeless state of disbelief - why can't I leave? I will never be able to pay if I am never allowed to leave or to work. I am 60-years-old with failing health. They just keep adding it on with fees and charges. They want me to die here."
Jonathan worked as a copywriter in a high-end UAE advertising agency until 2010. Soon after he moved into the country, he was flooded with phone calls from banks offering him loans with attractive rates.
After a while, he decided to accept some lines of credit from the Emirates NBD Bank. However, he soon began to fall behind with payments. While his previous debt was still a manageable £20,240 (USD 26,032), it soon reached a staggering £569,000 (USD 731,833).
Realizing the gravity of the situation, Castle made some major changes to his lifestyle in order to pay off his dues. He moved to a cheaper part of the city, sold his car, and stopped splurging on food.
However, he did not save enough to meet his deadlines, resulting in authorities catching hold of him. In Dubai, debt is a criminal offense punishable by a sizeable prison sentence. Soon debt collectors started harassing the expat on his phone, worsening the state of affairs.
He pleaded with them to restructure his loan time and again. However, they did not entertain his requests and became more angry and aggressive each time. According to Castle, one said: "You filthy defaulter, this my country. Give me my money and go home to your country."
The expat said: "The stress was horrendous. They cursed, insulted me and constantly threatened me with jail, explicitly frightening me with how I would be raped and beaten during my sentence, which would be for years, not months."
Due to the dire situation, Castle's wife, Susan, had to leave the UAE and return to her family home. His old mother, who is 88 years of age, is "sick with worry" after his father passed away and her son couldn't make it out of Dubai.
Susan said: "They were aggressive and insulting with me too, shouting down the phone that if I really cared for my husband I would be "standing with the prostitutes down at Bur Dubai" to help him.
"I am in total despair of ever seeing him again. Since the UAE made all VOIP services illegal we have only been able to communicate by text and the occasional phone call. The UAE seems to think it's perfectly acceptable to imprison someone for the rest of their lives and make it impossible for them to even try to fix the problem. Without a visa, he can't work, have a bank account, driving license or even have a phone. We missed our 25th wedding anniversary, Jonathan's 60th and countless other family milestones."
Having said that, Castle's health is severely deteriorating and he is unable to afford a doctor. He was already on medication for high blood pressure before his predicament.
He said: "The nurses at Rashid Hospital were kind enough to treat me for my health issues even though I have no insurance or money to cover.
"If it wasn't for them I would be in a very bad way and maybe not here at all."
While Castle tried his best to pay his debts in whatever way he could, the collectors grew more aggressive and started contacting his friends and colleagues - insulting them for associating with him and calling him a criminal.
It wasn't long before they began encroaching Castle's workplace and harassing him.
Currently, the downtrodden expat is sleeping on his friends' sofas and is living on handouts.
He said: "Sooner or later I will outstay my generous friends' goodwill. I do a week here, and a week there, staying with different people in rotation, but time is running out. My friends are gradually moving from Dubai and when that happens I'll be on the street like so many others. What new friend would want a 60-year-old man to live on their couch? I just pray that one day I can escape this city, finally visit my father's grave and live out my remaining years with my wife. I miss my wife, Susan, every day. The UAE has destroyed my life and will never let me go. My last few years will be spent penniless, with failing health, in a country that hates me. The official attitude seems to be 'you got into debt so you are despicable and deserve everything coming to you'."
Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, a UK-based non-governmental organization, said: "Jonathan is still stuck there, his situation getting more desperate as time goes on.
"Cases of foreigners being detained in the UAE are common and I don't think people are aware of this terrible situation that the outdated laws create. People like Jonathan should be allowed to return home to work so they can repay their debts. What is the point in forcing them to stay in the country when they are not able to work?" she says.