Human Rights Watch (HRW) has raised concern over the status of arbitrarily detained Afghans in United Arab Emirates (UAE).
In a new report, HRW urged UAE to urgently release those arbitrarily detained and provide access for determining their status and protection needs.
As per the report, UAE authorities have arbitrarily detained between 2,400 and 2,700 Afghans for over 15 months in the “Emirates Humanitarian City,” a humanitarian logistics hub in Abu Dhabi.
“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.”
Afghans, staying at the camp who have been interviewed by HRW, reported constraints on their freedom of movement, lack of access to fair and effective refugee status determination and safe and legal pathways for onward movement, lack of adequate access to legal counsel, and inadequate education services for children.
Living conditions have also deteriorated significantly, with detainees describing overcrowding, decay of infrastructure, and insect infestations, the report added.
The Afghans also stated that they are not allowed to freely leave the housing complex and are only permitted essential hospital visits under close supervision by security guards or minders from the camp.
The only other occasion when Afghans are allowed to leave the camp is when authorities took a group to a shopping mall, but they are accompanied and supervised by guards throughout the visit.
The rights organisation stated that the UAE should ensure that Afghans have access to counsel and legal services as many Afghans had been trying to apply for US resettlement but had not had fair and effective refugee status determination or other international protection procedures, or opportunities for onward movement.
The continued detention of the Afghans is unnecessary and arbitrary, Human Rights Watch said.
HRW urged the UAE government to investigate human rights violations that have occurred in Humanitarian City. It asked the UAE authorities to urgently identify and release children, pregnant and nursing women. It also stated that adequate healthcare should be provided to those detained.
It stated that the US government should leverage its influence with UAE authorities to urge the UAE to release detained Afghan evacuees, ensure they all have access to fair and individualized processes for assessing their legal status and protection needs.
In the weeks and months after the Taliban takeover of Kabul on August 15, 2021, the United States, NATO, UAE, and other governments evacuated tens of thousands of Afghans to locations around the world. The UAE government took thousands of Afghans on private chartered flights to Abu Dhabi, and then transferred them to the Emirates Humanitarian City and Tasameem Workers City (TWC), another housing facility, pending onward movement. While many were later resettled in the US, Canada, and elsewhere, between 2,400 and 2,700 Afghans remain arbitrarily detained in the UAE as of early January 2023.