That moment was captured by a professional photographer at a popular sun-drenched beach with the iconic Burj al-Arab hotel in the background.
After spending 10 years in the city where they met, fell in love and started a family, Lygia and Robert are getting ready to say goodbye to Dubai. Both of them used to work for the travel industry but lost their jobs due to the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite their best efforts they could not find any new employment opportunities, forcing them to take the tough decision of going back to their home country – Brazil. “We always imagined our daughter growing up here. But we have zero income. We can’t afford to live here,” Lygia says.It is a choice facing tens of thousands of migrant workers across the United Arab of Emirates.
Many of them have spent decades in the country, but with no formal route to citizenship or permanent residency, and no social welfare benefits to bridge the hard times, most are left with no option but to leave. When photographer Paula Hainey learnt about their plight, she offered free photo sessions to expat families who were leaving. To her surprise she was flooded with hundreds of messages.
“A lot of families come and go,” she says, “but they normally leave because they want to leave. “This time they were forced to leave. So it was a completely different feel to photograph these families that are being forced out of the country in a way.”
Oxford Economics, a UK-based advisory firm, estimates the United Arab Emirates could lose 900,000 jobs among a population of under 10 million, meaning some 10% of its residents could be uprooted.