The dilapidated kitchen in the home of a family in Abu Dhabi who are living in squalor but social services say they are powerless to act. Ravindranath K / The National
The dilapidated kitchen in the home of a family in Abu Dhabi who are living in squalor but social services say they are powerless to act. Ravindranath K / The National

No legal way out for Abu Dhabi family living in squalor

ABU DHABI // A family of children as young as 8 is living in squalor and deprivation, with social services powerless to intervene because they have no legal authority to do so.

The 10 children, the eldest of whom is 24 and mentally ill, sleep on the floor in two outdoor rooms reeking of urine and faeces and littered with rubbish. Their kitchen overflows with dirty dishes and rotting food.

Their father, 63, an Emirati, sleeps in the main part of the house in Abu Dhabi with his latest wife, 29, from the Philippines, and their baby daughter, who is about six months old. The National is not publishing his name to protect the reputation of other family members.

“They are dirty dogs,” he says of his children, who are mostly teenagers.

“Can’t they clean? They are sons of dogs. Look at this mess. They break everything. Have you ever seen an Emirati live this way?”

The man’s first wife is in the Philippines, where she is renewing her passport. She says she was forced to work as a housemaid to earn money for her children.

“He never paid us any money and would always beat us. He spent all his money on alcohol and is always drinking around the children,” she says.

The couple met in 1988. Her employer discovered they were having an affair and reported them to police. At the time, he was working for the military, but was dismissed for consuming alcohol and failing to report for work.

The couple were imprisoned for the affair. “He had to marry me to get out jail,” the wife says.

Now, she says, her husband subjects the children to tirades of verbal abuse.

She filed for divorce a few years ago but changed her mind when the court ruled that she would have custody of only the younger children.

“I can’t leave my kids,” she says. “I want them all to be with me.”

A distant relative of the father has taken it upon himself to help the children.

“He is a drunk,” the relative says. “He wastes all his money on alcohol and spends all night at the bars. I’ve begged him many times to look after his children.

“I help when I can but I have my own family. I feel sorry for these children but I don’t know what to do.

“I’ve taken all the passports and renewed them but I can’t always be there for them.”

The eldest son has not left the house or bathed in years. “He’s crazy,” his father says.

The son has never seen a doctor or had treatment for his mental illness.

“I can’t do that,” his father says. “He just becomes violent and starts attacking everyone. Inshallah, inshallah, I’ll take him.”

The other children attend night classes, but only the second son, 23, is employed. He is the sole provider and is heavily in debt.

“My father receives Dh16,000 from social affairs,” he says. “After my mother complained to the court, he was supposed to give us Dh10,000, but since she’s gone, he only gives us Dh500 each which isn’t enough.

“I try to buy the others everything they need but sometimes I can’t.”

The young man is worried that his father will sell the house.

“Where will we go? I overhear him talking on the phone and looking for buyers. I know it isn’t much but at least we have a roof over our heads. I know he will do it.”

The father rents out part of the house to two other families. He blames the Government for his troubles.

“I need money to renovate my house. I’m just humble and thankful. I don’t want to ask for help from anyone,” he says.

Abu Dhabi Police dispatched a team from the Social Support Centre to visit the family, but they were not authorised to comment.

The National also spoke at length to Social Support officers who had grave concerns about the children's welfare, but senior officers refused permission for their comments to be published.

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