A Dubai-based Indian businessman has pledged to spend $1 million (3.8 million dirhams) to help free prisoners, including Indians, who are behind the bars in the UAE due to non-payment of debts.
As the first step in this initiative, Firoz Merchant, founder and chairman of Pure Gold Jewellers, paid 150,000 dirhams for the release of 132 prisoners from Ajman Central jail.
The fund will be used to help those who are behind the bars due to non-payment of debt or overstaying in the jail despite completing their terms as they do not have money to return home.
These prisoners are from India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Ethiopia, Syria, Yemen, Oman and Ghana.
“These people are unfortunate victims of circumstances and are not real criminals. They have ended up in jail because of debt-related cases and I want to do my best to send them back to their families,” Merchant said.
He said that 2016 was challenging for a lot of people working in the UAE some of whom could not pay their debt.
“That is why I decided to pay off their debts and get them air tickets so that they can go back to their home countries. Funds to be made available will be against cheque bounce of up to AED 30,000 for rents, school fees, medical, car loan etc,” he said, adding that they are only considering applications forwarded by jail authorities across the UAE.
Besides air tickets, Merchant’s office is also giving 100 dirhams equivalent of local currency so that the released inmate reaches home safely.
“Most of these prisoners told us that once they land in their home countries, they will need public transport to reach their villages. It only made sense to give them some petty cash so that they manage the last leg of their journey,” he said.