Nerve wracking: Will I be arrested at the airport?
One of the uppermost questions on a UAE debt victim’s mind is “what happens when I need to travel?”. The answer is: It depends on your situation.
Still inside the UAE?
If you are in debt and currently still inside the UAE or another GCC country, make sure that you are in a position to continue payments. If you can’t meet your payments the bank is likely to file a police or civil case against you. This is generally accompanied by a Travel Ban making it impossible to leave the country until the debt is paid in full.
The police/civil case means you can not get a new work visa. The Travel Ban means you can not leave the country to work elsewhere either. This catch 22 has many expats trapped in the UAE, unable to support themselves and with no way to remedy the issue.
If you are likely to miss payments with no immediate hope of employment, then the safest solution is to leave the country before a travel ban is activated. At least then you can re-negotiate from a safe country without the threat of jail, and where you can legally work to earn money to pay the debt.
Don’t travel to the GCC
Assuming you exited the country before a travel ban was placed, you should consider not only the UAE, but all GCC countries off limits while your debt is being negotiated.
After your first police/civil case was issued, generally a GCCPol warrant is added several weeks later. This is exactly what it sounds like: an internal data sharing tool between GCC countries to arrest wanted people at their borders, and hand them over to the issuing country, similar to Europol.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not even safe to change planes in a GCC country while you have police/civil cases for outstanding debt. All long haul journeys can be made without needing to transit through GCC countries. Be aware of your flight plan before boarding the plane to avoid any costly mistakes.
The risk of Interpol abuse over debt is significant with UAE, Qatar, and wider GCC debt. There is no “formula” to determine whether or not you are at risk. Some people owe millions of dollars and do not have any trouble with Interpol. Conversely we have seen people with Interpol Red Notices over a few thousand Euros.
While it is improper to have a debtor placed on an Interpol Red Notice over missed loan or credit card payments, the UAE takes advantage of an unhealthy relationship with the organisation.
· The UAE has gifted Interpol tens of millions of dollars in voluntary “contributions.”
· The UAE has also built a multi million dollar, hi tech headquarters for Interpol in Abu Dhabi and is considered the West’s strongest ally.
· The current president of Interpol is Ahmed Naser Al-Raisi, an Emirati general associated with torture.
The UAE has a long history of re-categorising ordinary debt as fraud. Once it is classed as fraud, they are able to have the victim placed on the Interpol list with a Red Notice. This means that any time the debtor crosses an international border they can be detained while the border agents contact the UAE and ask if they would like to be arrested and extradited. Often the UAE will say ‘no’ if the country concerned is likely to refuse the extradition request, but leave the Red Notice active in case the victim visits a country more likely to approve the extradition.
Radha Stirling comments
“While there is an outstanding debt to any GCC bank, any non-essential travel should be avoided if possible,” explains Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai. “Certainly the GCC countries are out of bounds.
“If you know that you have an Interpol Red Notice already then you should avoid travel until you can have it removed. Otherwise you should look to handle the root cause of your problem before travelling, so as to be 100% safe.”
“If you are confused or concerned, get in touch with our team and we can walk you through your options.”
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