The Guardian's take on the Dubai crisis
Many westerners are being made redundant or absconding before the sharia legal system catches up with them.
Half of all the UAE's construction projects, totalling $582bn (£400bn), have either been put on hold or cancelled, leaving a trail of half-built towers on the outskirts of the city stretching into the desert.
"I look out of my balcony every day and I see Brits by the pool on their laptops," said Andrew Hillocks, 29, a sacked telecoms consultant whose passport has been seized. He will be escorted to the airport next week. "They're looking for work that just isn't there. I sold my car to cover my loan, but other people are panicking." Under Dubai's strict legal code defaulting on debt or bouncing a cheque is punishable with jail. Any expatriate in financial difficulty knows the safest bet is to take the next outbound flight.
At the airport, hundreds of cars have apparently been abandoned in recent weeks. Keys are left in the ignition and maxed out credit cards and apology letters in the glove box. Officials put the number of vehicles at 11. "No one believes that. There are 11 cars abandoned just on my street," said Anne, 26, a fashion editor from London.
But unlike their British counterparts, construction workers from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan cannot abandon lives in the glove compartment of a 4x4. Most took loans to pay agent fees to come to Dubai, and their debts will follow them home.
"I sold our land and took loans in the village to come here," said Imran Hassan, a 20-year-old Bangladeshi farmer. "I paid the agent £2,000 to bring me. He said I would earn 1,500 dirham [£287] a month, but we are paid 572 dirham. When I return people in the village will want their money but I have none."