A Pakistani expat has gone from owning a million-dirham business in Sharjah to becoming a labourer at a junk yard after he lost over Dh500,000 in an alleged scam, reported Khaleej Times on Monday.
Asghar Hussain and his family’s lives were turned upside down in late 2008, when an Indian con artist forged his signatures on legal company papers and fled the UAE. The Sharjah courts had ordered a five-year imprisonment and deportation for the accused in absentia.
Asghar, his wife and four kids, aged 15 to 23, have had to live with the dire consequences that followed the incident. By 2013, Asghar was no longer able to keep his business going as he was unable to pay bank loans. His children were kicked out of school in 2014 for not paying the fees – they remain without an education till this day.
Their residence, which used to be a large, two-bedroom apartment, is now a small, unfurnished room inside a shared apartment. They sleep on the floor, hang their clothes on a dirty ladder, and have their belongings stored away in worn-out cardboard boxes.
The family couldn’t hold back their tears as they spoke to Khaleej Times on Friday about their ongoing struggles.
“My children haven’t been to school in almost five years,” said the mother, Farah Gull. “They are desperate for an education. They see other children going to school and they ask us when they’ll be returning to school. I have knocked on so many doors, asking charities if they can at least help us with school, but we were turned away.”
Their three daughters and one son try to keep up with their studies at home. The youngest one, who is now almost 16, last saw a classroom when she was 10 years old.
Another major obstacle the family faced was having to stay illegally in the UAE for nearly five years. It wasn’t until the generous amnesty scheme rolled around last year, that they were able to legalise their status.
Asghar said: “There are several reasons why my children haven’t been to school in nearly five years. They didn’t have valid UAE visas or Emirates ID. No school accepts students who are staying illegally in the country. I am very grateful to the UAE government for the amnesty, it has helped us and so many other people in a similar situation.”
The family still owes the school, the Pakistan Islamia Higher Secondary School in Sharjah, about Dh20,000. Khaleej Times confirmed this fact with the school.
“My mother died when I was living here illegally, so I couldn’t even go to see her one last time. My wife’s parents died and she couldn’t go either. It really breaks our hearts,” Ashgar said.
The family is also drowning in other bills, which spilled over from their former lifestyle. They’ve been unable to end their rental contract for their old apartment as they haven’t paid the rent for several months and Asghar’s car has accumulated nearly Dh16,000 worth of fines as he couldn’t renew the registration.
Going back home to Lahore was not an option for them as the parents sold their home and all of their belongings to pay for their failing business, rent and school fees.
Asghar has managed to secure a temporary job at a junk yard, where he and his 23-year-old son work as labourers, earning less than Dh500 per month.
“It’s not a life I imagined for myself and my kids, but we have to produce some kind of income for the home. I have a wife, three daughters and a son that I have to take care of. I refuse to beg on the streets, but I will do a job of a labourer if I have to earn cash for my family,” he said.
The little income the father and son receive from the junk yard is their only way of survival as of yet. They’ve been turned away by relatives, friends and charities they approached for help.
CHARITIES FOR PAKISTANI EXPATS:
There are several charities in the UAE that are available to those in need, such as the Emirates Red Crescent, Red Cross and Beit Al Khair Foundation.
For Pakistanis, specifically, the Pakistan Association in Dubai (PAD) helps parents with school fees that they are unable to pay.
But because the Hussain family had been illegal residents for so long and did not have proper documents, they were turned away from these charities.