• A friend's long term girlfriend (4+ years) studied in this country and has since worked a couple of jobs.
  • She is a German/UAE dual national. I was apparently mistaken about her being a UAE/German dual national and she should now be solely a German national.
  • I'm not quite sure what her current exact visa situation in the UK is unfortunately but I'm confident she was here legally the entire time, to start with on a student visa.
  • Communication with her cannot be assumed to be private but she is usually contactable.

I'm led to believe she never had a brilliant relationship with her parents but recently returned to them in Abu-Dhabi to try and mend things for a week. Her parents told her they would buy her plane tickets, including a return to the UK after a week. The return ticket was never bought to the best of our knowledge.

On her arrival in Abu-Dhabi her parents got hold of her passport (on probable false pretences) to set up medical insurance, and have since hidden it from her.

She would like to return to the UK but due to the above is unable to. What steps can she/we take to get her back safely? With less progressive laws around women we obviously want to be careful to avoid her being put in potential harm's way.

My friend tried contacting the German Embassy in Abu-Dhabi and the Consulate in Dubai but they weren't much help, though maybe he didn't know the correct things to ask.

Are there any organisations etc that could help?

Any advice or pointers are very much appreciated.

  • 47
    It doesn't matter. She can just travel to the embassy and walk in. Say she is a german citizen and her life might be in danger. (Having a copy of passport will help). They will help to get her to Germany safely. From there, its easy. Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 8:55
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    As Anish said, if she can get to the German embassy they'll take care of things from there. Main problem will be getting out of the house and to the embassy as an unaccompanied woman in the UAE.
    – jwenting
    Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 9:13
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    If she is a also a UAE national, the German embassy may be very limited in the support they can provide.
    – Joe Malt
    Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 9:17
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    @StuartF no? She was probably outside without a male guardian or being disobedient in some other way. She's a women, after all, she broke some law by just existing. It's UAE you're talking about here, not UK. There's a reason why no-one suggests to contact local police.
    – littleadv
    Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 9:31
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    Same happened to me and my gf of also slightly more than 4 years (she's from India). We (her friends and me) tried so much to get her back. Alone, she didn't really want any of it, always being torn. The sad truth of many Asian family relationships is that they're (often toxically so) love/hate. It came down to: "would you like for us to marry?" ("yes"). And then: "so do I have your permission to introduce myself to your parents?" ("no"). If it's not "yes" to both, then it won't work, hard as it might be to understand to a westerner. Don't try to save someone who doesn't want to be saved.
    – Sixtyfive
    Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 10:03

7 Answers 7


This is not an answer but (IMO) too important for a comment: you really need to run the specifics of this case by a lawyer that's an expert in UAE law & customs. This is already a precarious situation. Taking advice from random (if well-intended) strangers from the internet may result in making a mistake which could make things considerably worse.

  • 5
    Very good advice and we will ensure we don't do anything rash to make the situation worse. I have already done a brief search for such an expert but they all seemed to be based in the UAE and so my worry is then they might not be sympathetic to us. If so they could end up contacting the parents directly and making things worse. It's why I was hoping there might be an organisation that is used to helping with this sort of thing but I've so far come up blank.
    – Jason
    Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 10:50
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    @lambshaanxy I appreciate that's generally the case but they also have to represent the law and I don't know exactly what legal right she'd have to privacy from her parents.
    – Jason
    Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 15:42
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    @sourcream Hard to do anything else, this whole question does not belong here because as you can see it can not be answered by any normal means since it has nothing to do with traveling.
    – pipe
    Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 9:30
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    @lambshaanxy This may be the case in "western" legal systems, but I wouldn't bet so much stake on these legal brakes in a theocratic dictatorship infamous of massively oppressing woman rights...
    – Neinstein
    Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 9:42
  • 7
    Why do you write it is not an answer? The question was "Are there any organisations etc. that could help?", the answer is Yes, a lawyer can help. This is the answer.
    – gerrit
    Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 15:47

I fully agree with the answer that a lawyer is going to be necessary to do anything here, but first your friend needs to establish something very clearly which is:

Is your friend's girlfriend actually being held against her will?

From the fact that she's had her passport taken from her it looks like it is. But the exact circumstances are going to be important. There is unfortunately a big difference between "if you go back to the UK we will disown you and won't pay for your studies" and locking a person in the house and physically preventing them from leaving. The first is just a family dispute about which authorities can do nothing. The second is kidnapping. Put simply:

If your friends girlfriend got a chance to physically go back to the UK would she take it, no matter what the consequences were for her relationship with her family?

If the answer to that isn't an emphatic "yes" then there is nothing any authorities can do.

If she is prepared to take this very drastic step then your friend should contact the German embassy and report that she has been kidnapped. They will probably need to speak to the girlfriend. They can work with Abu Dhabi authorities (although I have no idea how those authorities will treat this).

One possible scenario is that if she can get to the German embassy in Abu Dhabi then they can get her a new temporary passport and put her on a flight to Germany. They might do this without having to confront her family or UAE authorities.

You should also be aware the the rights of women in UAE are nowhere near equal to men, and permission of male family members is sometimes required for women to get jobs, study, travel abroad , and especially to marry. Being somebody's "girlfriend" (in the sense that is usually used in the West) would be forbidden by family, and restrictions imposed by the family may not be overturned by authorities.

An easy test of this is for the girlfriend to demand her passport back from her family. It's hers, and taking it from her is theft. If they refuse she should consider reporting it to the police. In all the countries I've lived in the police would insist on them giving it back to her. I don't know how that would work in Abu Dhabi.

  • 3
    In this case, where the woman possibly has renounced their UAE citizenship to gain German citizenship, it would be better for the German consulate to deal with the UAE officials. Emirati nationality law - Loss of citizenship - Wikipedia: Renouncing citizenship is viewed as a shame within the Emirati community, as citizenship is usually attributed to the Emirati community sense of national identity, ... Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 18:09
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    The withheld passport does not belong to GF. It is property of the German Government. (...)the passport is the property of the Federal Republic of Germany.(...) Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 19:27
  • 10
    @Mindwin That is technically true, but doesn't change the fact that depriving someone of their passport is theft - or at least illegal. The legal ownership was a technicality I didn't want to get into. Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 21:12
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    "You should also be aware the the rights of women in UAE are nowhere near equal to men" - this is true, but being a German national should go a long way to counter-act that. Countries tend to protect their citizens and aren't too inclined to stand in the way of other countries trying to do the same. The tension that would put on international relations is usually not considered to be worth it.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 9:38
  • 3
    In which case, @Mindwin, the German government can demand that the family return it to them, they then, can do with it as they wish, including returning it to its rightful holder - the girl in question.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 13:22

Notwithstanding @Hilmar answer, another action that can be taken is that the friend (as an interested party) inform the local (in the UK) German consulate of the situation.

The friend should supply as much personal information about the German citizen as possible (Name, birthday, last residence in Germany or where the last German passport was issued and known details of the case).

This report would then be passed on to the Foreign Office in Berlin and then to the consulate in the UAE.

As always with dual nationals, the host country is not required to recognise the second citizenship (i.e. the host citizenship prevails).

This could restrict the possible assistence of the consulate of the second citizenship.


With the new information, this is obviously invalid if the person isn't a UAE citizen

GCC Citizens have freedom of movement across all the GCC states, which makes for a possibility to get to another diplomatic mission from Germany and alleviate all the issues about diplomatic representations as a dual-national.

If they have their Emirates ID, they can likely (I don't know if a lone woman can though) take a flight to Doha, Qatar (NOTE about entry requirements) or Muscat, Oman and get hold of the German mission to get out either back to Germany or the UK.

  • 1
    If the parents took away both passports, then the Emirates ID is probably not available as well. Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 10:48

Things like this do happen, a prominent example would be Sabatina James (TED Talk).

Sabatina James established the organization Sabatina e.V., to help women threatened by oppression or violence lead a self-determined free life. She supports their talents, and finds them protection and shelter.

Link: https://www.sabatinajames.com

Their focus seems to be on Germany and Pakistan, but they might at least be able to point you to someone working in the Emirates.


You could also try to contact the Federal Foreign Office:


This link leads to a helpdesk page with phone numbers.

If she has only German citizenship, the German authorities have to take some action, and I am sure that they know how to help in such cases.

If she is unable to contact the German ambassy in Abu Dhabi, you can also contact the German ambassy in London.

I remember I once read about an international organization specialized on helping women in such cases, but unfortunately, I cannot remember the name and cannot find it in the internet.

  • 4
    +1, but you should expand it a bit. If she has only German citizenship, as the question now states, then it is the duty of German government to make sure she is not held against her will, and help her get home if she wishes so. But someone needs to tell them there is a situation.
    – Mołot
    Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 18:10

If I understand correctly the question, this is a German citizen whose documents were stolen.

She can go to the German embassy or consulate to inform them that her documents were stolen and that she needs new ones to return to Germany.

After that she gets on a plane to Germany.

Obviously, this assumes that:

  • she is not an Emirati citizen in which case the applicable laws are Emirati ones and they can be whatever
  • she is not kidnapped
  • she is ready to move from "not brilliant relationship" to "little hope to talk again"
  • she has the money to buy plane tickets
  • her family does not have the power to set whatever rules they want and that they will be followed by the local police/authorities

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