Henrietta, a South African mother of two, is hoping for a miracle.
She has a total of Dh500,000 of debt spread over three different banks in the UAE.
She failed to meet her monthly payments and had a police case filed against her by all three banks and then lost her job.
A debt consultant might counsel a restructuring plan, starting with her getting a new job and approaching the banks with a payment plan.
The bottom-line though, is the enormous personal cost to Henrietta and the erosion of hope and life itself.
In these nine months since the banks filed a case against her, Henrietta has lost her job, had to send her daughter back home, has nowhere to stay and relies on friends to survive.
Every now and then, her mother sends her money from South Africa so she is able to attend a job interview.
While Henrietta’s story is one of many across the UAE’s personal debt-ridden landscape, what marks it out is the lack of room for a restructuring plan in her scenario.
The hopelessness of the situation stems from the fact that she has been able to find a new job, but the employer will not hire her as long as there is a police case against her.
The banks, she claims, will not lift the police case unless they are paid.
She cannot pay them unless she has a job.
"This new company said they definitely want to hire me, but as long as the police case is there, I am not allowed to start," she says.
No pay, no play
Banks that Emirates 24|7 spoke to said once a police case has been filed, banks are unlikely to lift it, until the debt has been cleared.
Speaking about such a scenario Abdurahman Hamadi, who is a lawyer confirms that as per rules of a bank Henrietta's situation is a matter of rules.
"There is no way that a bank can lift the police case. This is against the rules," he says.
"She has two options. She can pay an early settlement, depending on the amount that she owes the bank. Or, if a bank wants to help her, it can provide her with a discount.
“She would have to pay a certain amount, and things can become a little easier for her. But, she needs to start paying," Abdurrahman says.
Arab Bank, another bank that has had similar cases, told this website: "If she could prove that she has a new job offer, then perhaps some bank will be willing to lift the case. Banks would settle for a way that she can start paying," a bank representative said.
… and jail
Henrietta is, however, considering jail now as a very real option.
"If I just knew what would happen to me once I do that, I would have done it a long time ago. It might not be such a bad alternative at all, but this scares me a lot," she says.
Acoording to Abdurrahman, the penalty is a day in prison for Dh500 of debt.
For Henrietta, that would mean 1,000 days in prison, almost three years.
However, Abdurrahman adds that after she completes this time the bank can file a civil case against her.
"She will only be free of that if someone pays her debt," he says.
The debt spiral
It all started about two years ago, when Henrietta decided to bring her daughter from South Africa, where she was being brought up by Henrietta's mother thanks to the remittances that Henrietta used to send them. She also has a son living with the grandmother.
"I wanted to provide my daughter with the best education, so I decided to have her come and live with me," she says.
"I had just changed jobs, and the new employer offered me a better salary, coverage of child education fees, the ticket to have my daughter come here and her visa expenses.
"I used to have a loan with one bank at that time. I might have been naïve to loan that much money, but I felt courageous and I was able to commit to my monthly dues.
“What I did not know was that the bank was authorised to subtract the end of service payment I received from my previous employer, which I had planned to use for the lease payment of my house."
Henrietta’s problems got worse as her new company reneged on providing the perquisites promised, while she was now already in debt.
Henrietta started loaning more and more money and things started to become blurry.
"In the beginning, I was able to catch up with my payments, although we would not live in luxury. But bit by bit, it was catching up with me.
“I loaned money from a second bank to pay the first, and then from a third bank to pay the second.
The circle of debt finally closed in in her and in April this year her company informed her that they were asked by the Ministry of Immigration to take her passport.
“I collapsed. For a moment, all I could think of was ending my life. I took a lot of pills and stayed home for two days. After two days, my employer came to my house and informed me I was no longer working for them and told me that a police case had been filed by the banks."
"I have been thinking about turning myself in. The police are after me and I do not want to live in fear. But every time I speak with my mom over the phone, she convinces me to keep hoping. To hope for a miracle."
Henrietta is not the real name of the woman and has been used to protect her privacy.