Like many young people who dream of coming to the wealthy Gulf States to find work, 27-year-old Anesu Gamba came here to Dubai three years ago to escape Zimbabwe’s crippling poverty.
I met Anesu, a soft-spoken man with a round face, at the Department for Naturalization and Residency in Dubai. He went there to cancel the visit visa he requested for his brother because he could no longer afford the ticket. “I wanted him to come and enjoy Dubai, he was so excited,” Anesu said, gazing sadly at the ground.
In the beginning, his new life in the Gulf was just as he had imagined. “In the first two years, I lived in a dream, I had friends, and I bought a car," said Anesu. He was also able to send money to his mother, father and younger brother in Zimbabwe, none of whom have jobs.
But last month, Anesu didn't send his family any money. He was among several laid off by the small public-relations company that hired him as a graphic designer. The company blamed the downsizing on the global economic downturn.
About a quarter of Zimbabwe's population has gone abroad, and together they send home anywhere from $360 million to $1 billion in remittances, reports the UN news agency, IRIN. These remittances are often credited for saving the country from complete collapse.
But the burden of supporting family members abroad is heavy for those in the Gulf. Many, like Anesu, have cut other costs to keep up the remittances. Anesu sold his car and moved into a shared apartment with three other migrants. “Sending money home is not an option, it’s an obligation," he told me. "I just can’t let my family down."
Finding a new job in Dubai isn't easy these days, but returning to Zimbabwe isn't very tempting. Less than 6 percent of people living in Zimbabwe are employed, the UN said recently. At its peak last year, inflation reached 231 million percent and Save the Children reports that more than 75 percent of the population lives in abject poverty.
Anesu thinks his chances of finding a job are better in Dubai. "I have one month to find a job after the cancellation of my visa," he said. "I came to Dubai with hopes and dreams. I will try my best to find a job, even as a waiter, a dishwasher, I don’t care. At the end, I don’t have many options, do I?"