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British Foreign Office Urged UAE Detainee Billy Barclay to Keep Quiet on Punishing Ordeal in Dubai

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2 years 11 months

British Foreign Office Urged UAE Detainee Billy Barclay to Keep Quiet on Punishing Ordeal in Dubai

The British Foreign Office reportedly urged the family of Billy Barclay, the Edinburgh man accused of forging a £20 note whilst on holiday in Dubai, to refrain from publicising his case in the media and enlisting the advice of Detained in Dubai, an NGO that has a proven track record of securing the release of British nationals in the UAE.

The UK government advised Billy’s family that talking to the media about his plight would make matters worse, whereas recent similar cases show that the opposite is true, and building a strong public campaign has been crucial to securing the release of prisoners.

CEO of Detained in Dubai, Rahda Stirling commented on the detrimental nature this advice could have on British and Foreign nationals abroad, stating that.

“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.”

By conducting public media campaigns, Detained in Dubai have a consistent track record of securing the release of foreign nationals abroad that have been unjustly detained in the UAE.

In August of this year they helped to secure the release of two Singaporean nationals that were initially sentenced to one year in prison for 'looking feminine' whilst taking part in a photo-shoot in a Dubai shopping mall. The NGO primarily achieved this through a targeted media campaign that saw the story picked in Western mainstream media. Similarly, last month they raised substantial raised pressure on the Emirati authorities to release a British government IT worker from Leicestershire, who was facing a six month jail sentence for rudely gesticulating whilst stuck in a traffic jam in Dubai, after generating substantial media interest in the case.

In the same vein, they have managed to publicise Mr. Barclay’s case across mainstream media outlets, including the BBC. This has alerted the UK Board of Tourism to the Edinburgh man’s plight, who have since intervened in the issue on behalf of Mr Barclay in an attempt to resolve it.

Stirling argued this is a key strategy to securing the release of foreign nationals in the UAE, and was therefore perplexed at the advice given by the British FCO. She argued that this advice is in fact detrimental, stating that “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.”

She continued, “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"

Billy Barclay's partner Monique was appalled by the advice given to her by the FCO, arguing that “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”.

In a similar train of thought, Stirling argued that the FCO’s advice was influenced more by the UK’s geopolitical interests than Mr Barclay's welfare, stating that, "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."

Taking this into consideration this raises the question as to whether the British government is putting lucrative UAE trade deals before the welfare of British citizens.

The UAE looks set to become an increasingly important trading partner to the UK in the post-Brexit era where both countries recently announced their intention to double bilateral trade to up to £25bn by 2020. This comes in spite of numerous reports in recent years detailing the appalling situation concerning human rights in the country.

On a regular basis, organisations such as Amnesty International have documented numerous cases of Emiratis and non-Emiratis subjected to enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, and torture in the UAE. Despite growing international pressure, the British government has so far refused to hold the Emirati authorities to account over its human rights record. This latest action by the FCO is a clear indication that in the post-Brexit era, human rights abuses are a matter of little importance, swept under the carpet to make way for lucrative trade deals.   


- For more information, press queries or comment, please contact the ICFUAE team at or +447979666698

- For Detained in Dubai's press release on the story, please see

- For more on Mr Barclay's case, please see

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