UAE: Expat reunited with family after being stuck in Iraq for a year

Dubai - The 61-year-old had been a Dubai resident for 13 years.

By Amar Benatia

Published: Fri 16 Jul 2021, 9:50 AM

Last updated: Fri 16 Jul 2021, 10:07 AM

A Dubai resident is finally back in the UAE after being stranded for almost a year in Iraq.

Thomas Simpson, 61, a Dubai resident for 13 years, had worked in Iraq for about four years in three stints.

The Scottish expat was stuck in Iraq for over 11 months and even imprisoned for a few days over legal issues he said he did not understand fully. He is now back in Dubai, basking in the love showered on him by his two children, Jamie, 16, and Kane, 13.

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Thomas was based in Dubai but was required to travel to Iraq for work about six times a year. However, since April 2020, his contract changed, and he had to spend more time in Iraq.

Despite his ordeal, Thomas said he enjoys working in Iraq. “My Iraqi colleagues are great guys, the best crew I have ever worked with. They are all my friends,” he said.

Recalling how he got stuck in Iraq after travelling to the country in July 2020, Thomas said it happened when relations between his previous company and its partner soured.

“The local partner decided on a show of strength one day by marching me and a few others offsite and locking us out of the facility for three days.”

He said he learned later that an arrest warrant was issued against him in May 2020 after he did not attend court. He added that the summons was published in local Erbil media and that he was not aware of it.

“Had I known about the summons, I would surely have attended court, and in doing so, would most likely have avoided all this trouble.”

Thomas was imprisoned for about three days. “My employer’s lawyer (based in Basra) got me out after three days at a cost of $5,000. I paid a further $8,000 in bail money to a bond agent provided by the same lawyer.”

A travel ban was imposed on him, after which he spent the next 10 months at the worksite.

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Talking about the toughest part of being stuck in Iraq, he said: “Those occasions (and there were several) where I had been assured that I would be fine to fly out of Iraq and return to my family in Dubai, only for yet another legal/administrative obstacle to appear and dash all my hopes.”

Reunited with family

Thomas finally landed in Dubai on July 3. He said the emotions of being reunited with his family were “indescribable”.

“We had all waited so long to be reunited and suffered so many false dawns and setbacks. So when I finally walked into the reception area at Dubai airport and into the arms of my beautiful children … well, it is hard to put into words the collective release of emotions between us.

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