Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Thousands of Afghan Refugees ‘arbitrarily detained’ in UAE: HRW

Immigration News

Fidel Rahmati
Fidel Rahmati
Fidai Rahmati is the editor and content writer for Khaama Press. You may follow him at Twitter @FidelRahmati

The United Arab Emirates was accused of arbitrarily detaining between 2,400 and 2,700 Afghan refugees in a miserable accommodation for more than 15 months, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Wednesday.

Many Afghan refugees who escaped to the UAE in August 2021 were eventually relocated to the US, Canada and other countries; however, “between 2,400 and 2,700 Afghan asylum seekers remain arbitrarily detained in the UAE,” according to HRW.

“Emirati authorities have kept thousands of Afghan asylum seekers locked up for over 15 months in cramped, miserable conditions with no hope of progress on their cases,” said Joey Shea, United Arab Emirates researcher at Human Rights Watch. “After enduring significant trauma fleeing Afghanistan, they are facing further trauma now, after spending well over a year in limbo in the UAE,” the report said.

HRW interviewed 16 Afghan refugees in UAE all complained about their freedom of movement, lack of access to fair and effective refugee status, lack of adequate access to legal counsel, and inadequate education and services for their children. 

“Many adults and children are suffering from depression and other mental health conditions,” the report added.

“The camp is exactly like a prison,” one Afghan said. Another expressed extreme frustration at the indefinite nature of his detention, saying, “The big problem is we do not know our future, and we do not know our destination.”

HRW described the condition of Afghan refugees as horrible and said detained Afghans suffer “prison-like conditions” with no freedom of movement and around-the-clock surveillance. It described a “mental health crisis” in the camp, adding that it learned of at least one suicide attempt.

While the UAE rejected it, saying that “Emirates Humanitarian City in Abu Dhabi has hosted over 17,000 evacuees since September 2021 and successfully resettled around 87%, said a UAE Government Official.

In addition, the report said, “Governments should not ignore the shocking plight of these Afghans stranded in limbo in the UAE,” Shea said.

HRW urged the US to immediately step up and intervene to evacuate Afghan refugees from the UAE.

“The US government should leverage its influence with UAE authorities to urge them to release detained Afghan evacuees. The US government, Immigration services and other relevant agencies should also urgently expedite the processing of pending US asylum, humanitarian parole, or other visa applications by Afghans in the UAE.”

The UAE official also added that Afghan refugees, particularly women, girls and families, provided high-quality services, including sanitation, health, education and food services.

“While in the UAE, evacuees from Afghanistan—particularly women, girls, and families—have received a comprehensive range of high-quality housing, sanitation, health, clinical, counselling, education, and food services to ensure their welfare, said the official.

The statement added that the UAE is committed to completing the ongoing cooperation along with the partners.

However, in response to the report by HRW, the UAE government said that it “continues to work with the US Embassy to process travellers and liaise with US counterparts to resettle the remaining evacuees in a timely manner as per the original agreement, according to a UAE Government Official.

Meanwhile, a UAE government official said that the UAE remains committed to this ongoing cooperation with the US and other international partners to ensure that Afghan evacuees can live safely, securely, and safely.

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