The recent case of the Scotsman, Billy Barclay who has been arrested and detained in Dubai for presenting one counterfeit £20 note highlights the FCO's unwillingness to properly warn visitors to the UAE of the potential dangers. The international community are shocked at the ease with which this detention was carried out and the lack of willingness by the FCO to intervene.
At the time of writing, the British Embassy in Dubai has not responded to the family’s pleas. Ian Murray is the MP from Edinburgh who is “aware of the situation” and has been in touch with the family on a daily basis as well as the UK embassy in the UAE. In a telephone conversation with Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, Mr Murray said that he is extremely concerned for Billy, and that he is doing everything he can to assist.
Detained in Dubai, with their ten years experience of British tourists and expats being wrongfully detained in the UAE, had requested that the UK FCO (United Kingdom Foreign & Commonwealth Office) increase travels warnings for those travelling to the UAE about the dangers posed by an often arbitrary and abusive legal system.
Currently the UK FCO warn British Nationals about the letter of the law; what they are and aren't allowed to do. But they give no advice about lengthy detentions without charges, often based on false allegations from another party. Simply doing nothing wrong is frequently not enough to ensure that someone will not find themselves in legal trouble in the UAE.
If wrongfully arrested, there is no legal aid, no charities, no support network to help those trapped in the country. Many UK citizens who have been falsely accused, have been reduced to homelessness while awaiting the extended judicial processes.
Radha Stirling, CEO of British based NGO, Detained In Dubai, is leading the call for more FCO warnings and intervention for British citizens in trouble
Radha Stirling released the following statement on behalf of Detained in Dubai:
“Every country owes a duty of care to their own citizens to warn them of the possibility that they may be subjected to false allegations and unlawful arrests. However the UK FCO has been reluctant to increase their travel warnings. This is because of the strong financial and diplomatic relations between the UK and UAE. It seems that the UK government is prioritising their financial arrangements over the well-being of their citizens - This is as I was told by the UK’s own foreign and consular representative for the Middle East.
“Billy's arrest is further evidence that the UAE is unhesitatingly abusing the rights of British nationals abroad. The UAE government is highly focused on marketing its tourism particularly to European nations; showcasing its glamorous shopping malls, star-studded entertainment, and luxurious lifestyle. They have invested heavily in tourism infrastructure and marketed their country as modern but have not similarly invested in developing the legal infrastructure required for true modernisation. The judicial system and every sector of law enforcement in the UAE remains starkly underdeveloped.
“As an organisation, we have dealt with thousands of cases, just like Billy Barclay’s. In some of these cases, people have been jailed for months or years before being found innocent and freed. The UK embassy is aware of these cases but continues to support the UAE government by not highlighting these instances of legal abuse, presumably for political and economic reasons.
“Citizens who have been detained have reported human rights violations including torture and sexual abuse; one UK National died in police custody allegedly due to police violence. Convictions without evidence are common, hearsay evidence is considered authoritative, and little more is needed to establish guilt beyond mere accusation.. The High Court of England has set a precedent followed by all subsequent rulings throughout the UK to decline the extradition of any UK Nationals to the UAE because of unfair trials and the real risk of human rights abuses.
“Detained in Dubai will continue to support Billy and his family throughout this ordeal and are hopeful that any charges will be dropped. We will continue to press for changes to the UK FCO website, to increase travel warnings.
“In the past month, 2 more British nationals were arrested in the UAE, one for consuming alcohol on Emirates airlines, arrested in transit en route to Jakarta and currently remains detained. Just last month Jamil Ahmed Mukadam was detained for a rude gesture allegedly made while held up in traffic in Dubai and remains on bail in a hotel.
“British nationals need to be aware of the risks when travelling to Dubai. The application of the law in reality is far different from what one would expect in an established country with standardised legal protections.”
Scottish £20 note like the counterfeit one accidentally passed by father of two, family man Billy Barclay