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Bed-bound British stroke victim detained in Dubai over debt

It's the same story we are all hearing at the moment; people are aghast at the way expats are treated in UAE.

Malcolm Munroe is a 70 year old man from Chorlton in Manchester who moved to Dubai to live his dream in 1983. He ran a successful roofing and cladding company which had several hundred employees. Life was good for Malcolm and his family for many years.

But like the experience of many foreigners in the UAE - everything was very good when it was good and bad beyond description once it had gone bad.

When the only safety net provided to protect British Nationals in Dubai, the British Embassy is preoccupied with maintaining a tranquil relationship with the UAE, things can spiral out of control very quickly.

This can happen to anyone, even if you thought you knew the local system after having lived there for 30 years or more.

Malcolm Munroe has been languishing in the Rashid Hospital since Christmas in 2013 when he suffered a massive stroke. This left Malcolm needing 24 hour care for the rest of his life. He is conscious but largely unable to respond apart from blinking.

Malcolm can barely move his head and is fed through a tube. He is connected to an oxygen tank, maybe for the rest of his life. But still the UAE treat him the same as they would a hardened criminal.

Malcolm’s helpless condition means obviously he couldn’t work. His business went bust and the debts mounted up. As usual in debt cases in Dubai, even if you're in hospital and barely able to blink, financial defaults will result in criminal charges.

Malcolm, has been sentenced to three years in prison, despite being paralysed and bedridden. Of course, he is unable to complete his prison sentence and therefore unable to be repatriated.

The father-of-three has not seen his wife and sons for two years. The family remains separated since Malcolm’s wife was forced to fly home to the UK for cancer treatment, and they have been warned that anyone linked to his company risks arrest if they set foot in Dubai.

Malcolm turns 71 this month, his family doesn’t know if they will ever see him alive again. This is despite Malcolm’s friends in Dubai raising thousands of pounds for a private helicopter to begin transferring Malcolm back to the UK.

This is being delayed by the Dubai authorities, who must agree to release him before he can be taken back home to Manchester.

Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, said, “This is an extremely sad and upsetting case. It is clear that nothing can be gained by imprisoning Mr Munroe and that, under the circumstances, the humane thing to do would be to forgive his debts and allow his family to bring him home. Mr Munroe’s plight is an extreme example of how severely the UAE deals with debt; no one is exempt, even when they have suffered catastrophic health problems. While we dearly hope that the UAE will relent in this case, it serves as a stark warning to other expats that any and all debt-related issues need to be addressed as quickly as possible; if they are not addressed, the downward spiral can be more drastic and more rapid than anyone could expect.

"We have a number of British nationals currently prevented from leaving the UAE because of debt that was out of their control. The authorities confiscate their passports and they are prevented from seeking employment that would help them pay their obligations. If they manage to leave the country, they are harassed by relentless debt collection agencies and in some instances, reported to the Interpol database and arrested in other countries. The UAE need to urgently review the way that they approach financial matters. The current system makes no sense."

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