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har­lotte was los­ing a lot of blood. We waited, not know­ing if she had died.” It had be­gun as a dream trip to the United Arab Emi­rates be­fore the birth of her first child. But when Char­lotte Quan­brough, 29, went into labour 14 weeks early, she and her part­ner had to find help fast in an un­fa­mil­iar coun­try while un­able to speak the lan­guage and un­der the threat of im­pris­on­ment.

Ms Quan­brough said: “My wa­ters broke in the ho­tel bath­room. We drove half an hour to find that the lo­cal hospi­tal’s ma­ter­nity ward had closed. When we got to an­other, no men were al­lowed so my part­ner had to wait out­side. No one spoke to me in English un­til the doc­tor ar­rived, say­ing I needed a cae­sarean un­der gen­eral anaes­thetic, which I didn’t want in case the baby didn’t sur­vive.”

Strict lo­cal laws in the emi­rate where they were stay­ing added to the worry. Her part­ner, Steve Dadds, 28, a sales­man for a car com­pany, said: “It’s three months’ de­ten­tion in Ras Al Khaimah for hav­ing a baby when un­mar­ried. We couldn’t tell any­one.”

More than a mil­lion Bri­tons a year visit the Emi­rates, run un­der vary­ing de­grees of Is­lamic con­ser­vatism whose rules also ap­ply to visi­tors. Health­care is good but ex­pen­sive for non-Emi­ratis.

“I wor­ried I would go to prison and med­i­cal bills would cost us the

He said: “I’d taken pho­tos of the pol­icy so I had the num­ber. I called, as you are meant to, in the first 24 hours. They were the most help­ful people we spoke to dur­ing the 14-week or­deal.”

EAF is a doc­tor-man­aged emer­gency ser­vice, on call 24/7 all year. Mr Dadds found it in­valu­able. In Ras Al Khaimah, for­eign visi­tors must exit the coun­try be­tween the 32nd and 39th day of their stay to re­new their visa. Over the 14 weeks, the cou­ple and Ms Quan­brough’s mother had to make three sep­a­rate trips to Oman, five hours away. Mr Dadds said: “EAF got us an Ara­bic-speak­ing case han­dler who or­gan­ised our visas and trips to Oman. It li­aised with our GP and got us advice the Bri­tish Em­bassy couldn’t.”

Emer­gen­cies of­ten mean longer and there­fore costlier stays over­seas. Pre­ma­ture ba­bies can­not fly un­til after their due date, a fact un­known by 75pc of people, ac­cord­ing to advice web­site Travel In­surance Ex­plained.

Ms Quan­brough and Mr Dadds’ 14-week wait cost £12,700 for UAE ho­tels, £64,400 in med­i­cal ex­penses and £43,000 for air­lift to Bri­tain. With­out their £240 in­surance their bill would have been £121,100.

The fam­ily of Charles McLaugh­lin are less for­tu­nate. Mr McLaugh­lin, 38, from In­ver­clyde, Scot­land, was trav­el­ling in south-east Asia when he suf­fered a ma­jor stroke in the Cam­bo­dian cap­i­tal, Ph­nom Penh.

Ac­cord­ing to his sis­ter, Jen­nifer McLaugh­lin, he is com­mu­ni­cat­ing with his eye­lids. She said: “We can only guess how long he was on his own. It is tes­ta­ment to his health and strength that he sur­vived.” Mr McLaugh­lin is in Cambodia’s largest gov­ern­ment­funded hospi­tal, re­ceiv­ing care his sis­ter called “very limited” at £300 a night, paid for by the fam­ily.

A bet­ter equipped pri­vate hospi­tal in the city would cost £2,000. Ms McLaugh­lin said: “Charles got in­surance but ex­tended his trav­els and we think not his cover. His bank won’t tell us with­out his per­mis­sion, which he can’t give. Mum is very con­cerned.”

The fam­ily want to repa­tri­ate Charles, which would cost up to £105,000. To pay for it they have

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