Young expat deported for not reporting cohabiting unmarried couple

Young expat deported for not reporting cohabiting unmarried couple

Young expat deported for not reporting cohabiting unmarried couple

The UAE may well be backtracking on hitting out at expat professionals, but its archaic laws can still land the unwary in a heap of grief.

Over the past several weeks, much has been made in the Gulf State English language media of the UAE’s and other Gulf States’ sudden offering to expatriates of long-stay visas, full business ownership, investment opportunities and other attractive perks. Coming after several years of Saudization, Kuwatization, Omanization and so on, expats could be forgiven for revelling in what seems like a new dawn. However, one thing is unlikely to ever change – the strict Islamic legal system with its medieval rules and harsh punishments.

It’s not just expats who risk being caught up in unintended breaches of the rules, it’s the tourists the emirates are now trying hard to attract as part of losing their reliance on oil-generated revenues. One law renowned for getting Westerners into serious trouble is relatively well known to expats working in Arab states, but its sting in the tail is known to only a few. Breaking the rule that unmarried couples may not live together gets jail and deportation, but those who are aware it’s taking place and don’t report it also face the same penalties.

One recent case involved an unmarried couple living in a shared apartment with a newly-arrived young expat woman. Someone reported the couple and the police swooped and arrested them, but they also arrested their 19-year old flatmate for not reporting them. She was sentenced to jail and deportation for breaking a law she didn’t even know existed. In Dubai, another unmarried couple were caught kissing in a mall, and a woman staying in a UAE hotel was given a jail sentence in absentia because a man visited her to finalise his purchase of her car. She was also forced to undergo a humiliating forensic examination.

London-based NGO Detained in Dubai is known for its tireless work with expatriates who’ve fallen foul of laws they didn’t even know existed, and is famed for its knowledge and experience in UAE legal matters as well as its work with reliable local lawyers on clients’ behalf. They believe in facilitating positive change and use reports in the international press as a way to generate reform. Given the number of recent cases as well as others which have made headlines over the past several years, it’s important for expatriates relocating to the UAE as well as tourists planning a visit to thoroughly familiarise themselves with all the emirates’ Islamic laws before they arrive.

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