In 1976, the Eagles released a song called HOTEL CALIFORNIA. The lyrics of the song tell the story of a man that checks into a strange spiritual hotel one night and is not allowed to leave.
Last thing I remember, I was running for the door
I had to find the passage back to the place I was before
“Relax,” said the night man “We are programmed to receive. You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave!”
For many missionaries, Dubai has felt like the hotel California. You can check in any time you like, but leaving can be difficult.
A US Army veteran found that out the hard way. He has been trapped in Dubai for five years over a “fabricated claim” he owes his boss money.
55-year-old Robert Dobbs is an eight year US Army veteran and father of five who has been working at Providence English Private School in Dubai, but when his four year contact came to an end and he went to collect his pay and return to the US, he was instead faced with an angry employer that said they do not owe him money, but he owes them – $100,000 USD. Robert was arrested, beaten, and not allowed to leave the country until he pays the fine.
Robert has now been separated from his family for five years and can’t get much help from the US Embassy. The US Embassy specifically warns travelers that the UAE has strict rules about exit visas and also notes that citizens can be jailed if they post things on social media that the government does like, stating, “The UAE has strict laws regarding use of the internet and social media. Individuals have been arrested and criminally convicted for posting information on social media sites (such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) that local authorities determined was disturbing to the order of the UAE. Users of social media should be cautious about online posting of information that might be deemed to insult or challenge the local or national government. Individuals should avoid posting insults or derogatory information about governments, institutions, or individuals.”
That means that merely sharing this article on social media could cause legal trouble with the government in Dubai.
Ryan Pate from Florida was arrested in the UAE after he posted a complaint against his employer on Facebook, where he called his bosses “backstabbers” and warned others not to work for them.
Pate spent 10 days in jail and was only released once his employers decided to drop the charges and his congressmen, Rep David Jolly, lobbied for him. If the employer would have desired to press charges against Ryan and he didn’t have a congressman helping him, he might still be in jail.
BTJ has seen first hand evidence of missionaries being cheated by the immigration system in Dubai.
Tyler, not his real name, has been working with BTJ for more than six years and has helped provide visas for several Chinese missionary families. When Tyler accidentally crossed paths with a local that wanted to extort him for money, Tyler refused to pay. The local went to the government and filed a complaint against Tyler, a complaint that could not be proven, and in a matter of hours, Tyler’s visa was flagged and he was not allowed to leave the country. Tyler has been trapped in Dubai for more than five years. He can’t leave the country. He can’t legally work. He can’t even renew his passport because he is no longer in the country legally.
Tyler cannot use his real name in this article or report details about his situation because he would suffer even more dire consequences if Dubai learned that he was helping Chinese missionaries.
Young women suffer the most from these unfair visa laws. In the underbelly of Dubai, BTJ runs a company that helps women who are being trafficked to obtain proper visas. Many women are brought to Dubai to work at hotels, restaurant, etc. A predatorial visa company will help them obtain their Dubai work visa, air tickets, and accommodation. This process purposefully incurs thousands of dollars of debt that the young ladies are simply not able to pay. Their passports are taken from them and they are forced to repay these debts by selling their bodies.
If they try to leave without proper approval from their employer, Dubai will detain them and they will suffer even more.
These women have nowhere to turn, so BTJ provides services to get them out from under the control of their current employer and return home or to obtain a proper visa, and secure legitimate employment. This is not an easy process. The current laws in Dubai make it difficult.