By Emma

Prisoners Abroad offers guidance and support to overseas British prisoners and their families. Emma, one of our caseworkers, shares some advice on travel to Dubai and the wider UAE, having noticed a recent increase in calls relating to this particular country.

Prisoners Abroad has noticed an increase in calls from worried families, who have learned of the arrest of a loved one in Dubai, or the wider United Arab Emirates. It’s a worrying time for anyone when they hear about a family member being detained abroad. Very often Prisoners Abroad can provide some level of reassurance that help will be available in the form of regular contact from the caseworkers, grants for basic provisions where needed, English reading materials, newsletters, freepost envelopes, and a letter forwarding service. There is a lot on offer for most people in their time of need. 

However, in the United Arab Emirates, Prisoners Abroad has found that the prison service does not allow people who are detained to receive anything by post – and this severely restricts how much support the charity can offer to prisoners. It is not possible to send reading materials, freepost envelopes or even letters.  

Prisoners Abroad also receives a number of enquiries from people who are looking for legal representation or guidance about how to deal with the legal system in the UAE. Prisoners Abroad is not a legal advice charity and is not qualified to provide this sort of assistance to prisoners or their families, wherever they are detained in the world. The charity’s remit is to provide welfare support, and therefore providing legal assistance or campaigning to get people out of prison is not something that Prisoners Abroad can offer. 

There are a few things that Prisoners Abroad can do to help prisoners in the UAE and their families. Small grants can be provided to prisoners whose families aren’t able to support them financially, and there is a volunteer translation service which enables the translation of short documents from Arabic to English or vice versa. Families can access online support groups where they can share their experiences and talk to other families going through similar things. And prisoners who are signed up with Prisoners Abroad can also access a resettlement service on their return to the UK. For those who have been able to overcome the hurdles presented and organise a prison visit to a loved one, Prisoners Abroad has a dedicated Family Travel Fund that may be able to provide assistance. 

If you find yourself in this situation, where a loved one is in prison in the UAE, please do give the caseworkers a call. They can talk through the situation with you and explain how to get your family member signed up for the support that we can offer. The team is available to speak to you on our freephone number 0808 172 0098 (option 1).  

You can find advice on travel to the UAE by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office by clicking here. If you have been arrested or detained abroad, the FCDO provide guidance here, including lists of local English-speaking lawyers and translators, and Prisoner Packs for specific countries.

Being offered a lifeline can change everything. 

Prisoners Abroad translates human rights law into practical life-saving actions by providing prisoners access to vitamins and essential food, emergency medical care, freepost envelopes to keep in touch with home and books and magazines to help sustain mental health.