Milwaukie native Robert Dobbs served in the US military as an airborne sergeant before leaving to pursue a career as a teacher.
55 year old Robert thought he had hit the jackpot when he landed what seemed to be a lucrative job in the UAE at the Providence English Private School in Sharjah, teaching English language and literature. Robert rose to head the department before circumstances meant he had to leave and begin new work teaching at a business school.
Robert, who is father to 5 children, found himself a victim of the Dubai legal system. The head of the school told Robert she was not going to pay him his End of Service Benefit.
“It was out of spite,” says Robert. “She wanted me to keep running the department. She told me that unless I stopped asking for my EOSB, she would not cancel my visa”
In Dubai a visa is something that can be held over employees. Robert could not legally work in his new job without the visa. He had to take a labour case against the school, which he won.
She still did not pay him. Instead she took out a civil case against Robert, accusing him of not paying tuition for his kids who went to the school. She was claiming a sum of AED 360,000 ($97,000).
“She told me to my face that she took the case for revenge because I took the labour case to get my EOSB,” says Robert. “The system here can be manipulated very easily by people”.
Robert lost the civil case because it took place during COVID and nobody told him about the hearing times and dates, meaning that he missed them and wasn’t able to defend himself.
Robert has been detained 28 times in Dubai police stations, and beaten severely by CID officers.
Robert has been stuck in Dubai since 2018. Unable to legally work, he’s been forced to live on his mother’s charity.
“It’s like Groundhog Day. Every day I am worried it will be the day I am taken to jail while the false debt is unpaid. It can never be paid because I don’t have the money. I am also legally forbidden to get a work visa while the case is open.
“It is no exaggeration to say I will probably die here because of this. My friend Robin Berlyn died trying to escape from exactly the same circumstances 18 months ago”.
American lecturer, David Oliver, faced a similar dilemma in Dubai. He was only released after US officials persuaded his bank to drop charges against him.
Radha Stirling comments: “Cases like Robert’s are all too common unfortunately. The UAE legal system is wide open to abuse. This debt is a manufactured one, but the results are very real. We have seen people die in Dubai because they were not allowed to leave, nor were they allowed to work to support themselves because the open police/civil case prevents them from getting a work visa.
“These people are left relying on charity, often succumbing to malnutrition or as they get older, lack of medical treatment.
“The Dubai legal system, particularly respecting debts, needs urgent reform for the safety of visitors. If Dubai hopes to achieve its goal of being a major tourist and business hub for Westerners, it needs to stop issuing criminal punishments to civil disputes.”
Detained in Dubai is reaching out to his Senator and Congressional representatives in Oregon to assist.
Detained in Dubai: http://www.detainedindubai.org
Detained in Doha: https://www.detainedindoha.org
Radha Stirling: http://www.radhastirling.com
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