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When Garry Bellamy was made redundant whilst living in the United Arab Emirates he didn’t just lose his job, he lost his freedom and found himself stuck with no way to get home to the UK.

Garry joined the Royal Navy in 1975 straight from school, signing up as an electrical engineer. After completing training he was deployed to various warships and was involved in the Armilla patrols in the Persian Gulf.

Garry Bellamy in Royal Navy uniform

After serving for seven years Garry decided to leave the Navy in 1982, shortly after his father sadly passed away and as his role was becoming more shore-based.

Garry had several jobs before he joined an engineering company as a marine electrical engineer based in London. Having worked in the company for a year, he requested a transfer to an office in Abu Dhabi.

For the first few years Garry enjoyed life in the UAE, but when he ran into money problems everything changed.

“I thought it would be a nice change to actually go and be stationed abroad doing the job that I liked doing at the time,” Garry says. 

“I got a direct company transfer from London to Abu Dhabi.”

After 18 months Garry left his job and worked for various other companies in the Emirates.

In 2018 Garry got a job in sea trials, surveys and inspections with a company in Dubai.

 

“It was at this point where all my problems started”

"For two months I was only paid 60% of my salary, then the third month I wasn’t paid anything and was made redundant."

The company were also supposed to get Garry a new residence visa, but they never did and shortly after he was let go the company was shut down – meaning he didn’t receive the £30,000 in wages he was owed.

"By this time, I was in trouble with the banks and had missed credit card payments and payments on a loan."

This was especially worrying for Garry as non-payment of debt is a criminal offence in the UAE.

"Several credit card companies opened police cases against me. I was taken to court and had fines totalling 30,000dhs (£6,000)."

 

He managed to pay the initial fines but he was now stuck in Dubai with no residence visa and overstay fines increasing by £30 per day.

"I had several jobs but these were terminated because the companies could not get my residence visa due to the amount of overstay fines I had.

"By now other banks had opened police cases against me and I was taken to court yet again, this time I had two fines totalling 15,000dhs (£3,000)."

Despite being given a little time to clear the fines he had no way to pay and was sent to jail.

"I had to spend 150 days in jail, one day for every 100dhs owed. I spent Christmas, New Year and my 60th Birthday in jail which was the worst year of my life.

"I was in a room with 90 other people. Some were there because they were caught with cans of beer in their car or had committed driving offences and couldn’t pay their fines. 

"There were a number of English ex-pats in jail, as well as a couple of Americans and a few other Europeans, so I had English speaking people with me."

Prison cell bars

After nearly five months in jail, Garry was released in April 2019.

Now homeless, he stayed with friends and in cheap accommodation where he could, paid for by friends and families and charities, as he tried to find a way to return home to the UK.

After nearly five months in jail, Garry was released in April 2019.

Now homeless, he stayed with friends and in cheap accommodation where he could, paid for by friends and families and charities, as he tried to find a way to return home to the UK.

But he found himself stuck in a vicious circle for months after leaving jail.

“There was no way out.”

"I couldn't get out of the country until I paid the fines, but I couldn't pay the fines because I couldn't get a job because I had no visa. 

"It was just a vicious circle, there was no way out of it unless I came up with a lot of money to pay everything off and leave the country."

After contacting the British Consulate for support Garry was given a list of charities who could possibly help him. 

One of those charities, British Community Assistance Fund, who had paid for two weeks accommodation, referred him to a Father Harry Ching of Christchurch Jebel Ali (Catholic Church) for assistance. Father Ching kindly allowed Garry to sleep inside church buildings and also contacted the Royal British Legion on his behalf.

Shortly after, Garry was contacted by Susan Coleman, one of our overseas officer.

"I was almost in tears when she told me they could help. I welled up, I couldn't actually speak for a few minutes because I was so relieved that I was going to get the help I needed. 

"I could finally see a way out of this mess, I could finally go home, and I could finally see my family again after over two years."

Thanks to the Legion Garry was able to pay off his outstanding fines, resolve his visa issues and return home.

"Once I paid off my court fines, I knew then I had no more criminal cases against me, all I had to do was get my overstay fines sorted out. I did that by requesting an out pass, where they waive all the overstay fees, but you must leave the country within five days and I'm now banned for life from the Emirates."

After six months of being stuck in the UAE with no home or income, Garry arrived back in the UK in September 2019

“I'm so glad just to be back in England again, where there's no fear of me getting arrested.”

Now home and settled in the UK Garry is rebuilding his life.

He is staying with his daughter and has secured a new job as an electrical engineer for a defence and security company. But unfortunately, because of Covid-19 I cannot start until September.

By sharing his story Garry wants other veterans to know that even when it seems like there is no hope, there is help out there.

"When it seems there is no hope for you and you've got nowhere to go contact the British Legion. If they can't help you directly, they will find someone to help you.

"That's the reason why I'm here today because of the Legion’s help."

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