Dangerous UK FCO advice to Billy Barclay could have left him stuck in UAE indefinitely.
Billy Barclay, the Edinburgh man accused of passing a forged £20 note while on holiday in the UAE, and his family told Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, that they were warned by the British Government not to proceed with advice from Detained in Dubai on publicising his ordeal. The FCO reportedly advised him against taking his story to the media. He was told that doing so would actually make matters worse. This advice is alarming, given the fact that numerous cases have shown active media campaigning has often proved to be the only way innocent people detained in the UAE can regain their freedom.
Radha Stirling commented on the British Embassy's advice, "It is really quite shocking. Not only have we seen the embassy often refrain from intervening to help British citizens when they face legal problems in the UAE, now apparently they are actually discouraging people from seeking help through one of the most effective methods available. If Mr. Barclay had followed the embassy's advice, there is no question that he would still be in the same dilemma, and quite possibly have ended up facing jail time for something he didn't do. It is astonishing that the embassy would take such a position, and one can't help but wonder how many innocent British citizens are currently detained in the UAE, following the embassy's advice to keep their heads down and suffer in silence."
The family were contacted by government personnel who tried to persuade them not to enlist the support of Detained in Dubai and to cancel their plans to publicise their situation. Finding them resolute about taking this course, they then contacted Billy’s wife directly, attempting to dissuade her from proceeding with their plans.
Billy Barclay’s partner Monique is also appalled by the advice, “If we had not gotten Radha involved, I know Billy would still be stuck there. The advice of the FCO was clearly not what would be best for us, but only good maybe for the UAE, to keep the issue under the carpet”.
Stirling agrees, "The British government appears to be as concerned about the UAE's public image as the Emirates government is itself. Thankfully, the press in the UK has more freedom than the press in the UAE, and they do not refrain from reporting the mistreatment of Britons in that country."
The Board of Tourism in the UAE only knew about Billy’s plight because of the Detained in Dubai campaign, and this is what prompted them to step in and resolve the issue. Stirling concludes, “keeping quiet about things like this are not in anyone’s best interest. The UAE government was only able to intervene in Billy’s case when they learned of it through our campaign. We have to give the government the opportunity to remedy the situation, and sometimes that opportunity can only be made through taking the issue to the media.”