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May 30, 2016

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UAE Charities Unable to Aid Abandoned Divorcee Struggling to Support Emirati Daughters

A Tanzanian mother of two Emirati daughters is destitute and unable to send her girls to school after their father abandoned them.

Layla Yousif, a mother of four and five-year-old girls, is afraid of approaching authorities for help as she has no residency visa, which has also meant that charities are unable to help her.

The 32-year-old and her girls, Mariam and Mahra, live with her brother in his two-bedroom flat with his wife, daughter, their mother and another sister and brother.

She said that her life went from bad to worse after marrying Mohammed Al Naqbi in 2007.

Initially, Ms Yousif was put up in a home by her now ex-husband, but she said he continually put off sponsoring her until he eventually refused, saying that being married to a foreigner would lead to him being fired from his Armed Forces job.

Now, Mr Al Naqbi's mother said he is in jail for unknown offences, though Ms Yousif disputes this.

Ms Yousif only has copies of her girls' passports and IDs, meaning she cannot register them at school.

"We got married in 2007 in my country and he brought me here through a visit visa. His friend who has a shop sponsored me because Mohammed worked in the Armed Forces and he didn't want them to know that he married an expat in case they fired him," she said.

"After that, he started avoiding getting me a residency visa. In 2010, I delivered my first daughter and he told me, 'when she becomes a one-year-old, I will do you [an Emirati] passport', and then I got pregnant with my second one, and when my visa finished, he told me, 'I won't sponsor you'."

After six years she opened a court case to get herself a residency visa and passports for her daughters. "Since 2013 until now my case is in the court [her residency visa request]. I asked for a divorce and I got it in 2015, and my daughters got their Emirati passports, IDs and health cards but the originals are with him, he just gave me a copy," Ms Yousif said.

According to the court documents, Mr Al Naqbi, 35, was told to pay Dh5,000 per month to his ex-wife and daughters but he said he could not pay as he lost his job because of his marriage to her, he has debts and he spends money on his son from his first wife.

He said he could pay Dh3,000 per month but he gave a one-off of Dh30,000 and then the money ran out.

Ahmed Mohammed Al Khadim, of the Ministry of Social Affairs, said that charities need to see a valid residency visa before they can assist in cases.

"The system requires having a valid visa, it is one of the clauses to get the support. Through the visa, the cases can been studied to know if the person is divorced, sick or having a difficult life. Those who don't have a visa? The charity can't study their case," he said.

The mother of Mr Al Naqbi said that he provided his ex-wife with a house, maid and expenses during their marriage but he could no longer do so as he was jobless.

"Because he worked in the army, he can't marry an expat and, when they knew, they fired him, so he can't pay her because he doesn't have money," she said.

Hassan Elhais, legal consultant at Al Rowaad Advocates & Legal Consultants, said that the father, as the children's guardian, has the right to hold their passports but that guardianship is taken away from father if "he is sentenced to punishment in a felony crime or intended misdemeanour that he did on the child" or "if he has been sentenced to serve a jail term".

Ms Yousif said she is working on getting a residency visa. Her overstaying fines have been waived and now she needs to deal with paperwork before applying for the visa.

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