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Wednesday, September 29, 2021

UK probes suicide of expat trapped in Qatar over debt

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

British officials have conducted an inquiry into the suicide of a UK expat in Qatar who is thought to have fallen into despair over unpaid debts.

The news comes amid other reports of expats here who have ended their own lives due to financial strain.

In England and Wales, inquest are normally held by coroners if a person dies an unnatural or violent death overseas and the body is returned.

In this case, the inquiry heard the 45-year-old killed himself in Qatar last year after not being able to get an exit permit due to his debts.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The individual, who Doha News is choosing not to name out of respect for his family, was working in the project management division of Amlak.

Amlak is the commercial arm of Qatar Foundation that manages its real estate, hospitality businesses and other assets such as the Qatar National Convention Center.

The man died on Feb. 8, 2015, records published by the Gloucestershire coroner show.

Last week, the Gloucestershire Echo reported that the man had lost his job several months earlier, but had secured a new position with an engineering firm in Saudi Arabia.

However, he was apparently unable to secure an exit permit due to his debts, even though his family had offered to help him pay down his loans.

“They don’t really know the extent of his money situation. They don’t know how much he owed and to whom or whether he had anyone chasing him over unpaid debts,” coroner’s officer Andrew Wasley was quoted as saying.

The inquest also heard that the British expat was having relationship trouble with his girlfriend, who lived in Spain, and that the Qatar government did not provide additional information about the death despite three requests from the British Foreign Office.

The coroner’s office left its verdict “open.” According to the Gloucestershire Echo, the coroner said he still had unanswered questions and was unable to conclusively conclude what happened, even though the evidence available suggests it was a suicide.

Neither Amlak or the British embassy would comment on the specifics of the case, citing privacy concerns.

Debts

Like many Gulf countries, Qatar’s legal system can come down hard on residents who are unable to pay their loans.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Leaving Qatar for good, as it appears the British expat was attempting to do, requires one to clear their debts and close all bank accounts. Non-payment of a debt is a criminal offense that could result in a prison sentence.

While some expats flee the country without paying off their loans, others have reportedly been detained after Interpol issues an international arrest warrant on Qatar’s behalf.

The Guardian reported that a British man was arrested in Jordan in 2013 after Qatar accused him of not paying off a car loan he took out while living here:

“I was put in a cell for two days. Luckily there was no extradition agreement between Jordan and Qatar so they said I could not be removed. Eventually I was released,” he told the newspaper.

“The bank had fined me without me knowing about it. I had had to leave Qatar to go back and see my son, who was unwell. I had thought I had paid off my debts. Now I’m worried about travelling anywhere. It’s a big headache to see your name (on the Interpol site).”

More expats have been thrust into difficult financial situations as the downturn in oil prices causes some large companies across the Gulf to lay off staff.

This has led to an uptick in the number of so-called “skips” in Dubai, according to Bloomberg. However, it quoted one analyst who said the statistics said just as much about the state of bankruptcy laws in the Gulf as the region’s economic slowdown.

Resources

The British inquiry comes amid other reports of expats who have ended their lives in part due to financial pressures.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Up to 10 Indian expats in Qatar are reported to have killed themselves in the first two months of 2016. Community leaders said they believe that some of them had lost their jobs and were unable to pay off their debts.

Arvind Patil, the president of the Indian Community Benevolent Forum in Qatar, told Doha News that his organization reaches out to people in distress.

It also tries to help those who have lost their job obtain a no-objection certificate that would allow them to find alternative employment and pay off their debts.

It’s not known what prompted the British man to apparently take his own life. While Qatar has said it’s working to improve its mental health services, care can still be difficult to access for residents who are unfamiliar with navigating the healthcare system.

The British embassy has encouraged citizens who find themselves in distress to seek medical advice from local health professionals.

A spokesperson told Doha News added that the diplomatic mission is in contact with local health and social service providers and that British nationals can call the embassy at 4496-2000 for guidance on organizations that may be able to help.

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