Afghan refugees detained in ‘prison conditions’ in the UAE, says human rights group

Afghan refugees in UAE
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Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused the United Arab Emirates (UAE) of arbitrarily detaining at least 2,400 Afghan refugees in “miserable” accommodation for more than a year, pending resettlement elsewhere.

The human rights group said that between 2,400 and 2,700 Afghans are “arbitrarily detained” in makeshift refugee housing. There, they have limited freedom of movement and scarce access to legal counsel. The refugees were first evacuated to the UAE following the Taliban takeover of Kabul in August 2021.

HRW’s UAE researcher, Joey Shea, called for their immediate release, stating:

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

HRW reported that authorities have stationed guards throughout the complexes. Furthermore, the refugees are only permitted to leave the camp for essential hospital visits, during which time security will accompany them. Authorities also tightly control visits to the camp from outside.

‘Prison-like conditions’ for Afghan refugees

The UAE, for its part, said it was working with US counterparts to complete the resettlement process. However, it denied reports of dire living conditions. An Emirati official told AFP:

The UAE continues to work with the US embassy to process travellers and liaise with US counterparts in efforts to resettle the remaining evacuees in a timely manner

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We understand that there are frustrations and this has taken longer than intended to complete.

The official also said that the country had agreed to temporarily host Afghan refugees at the request of the US.

However, according to HRW, detained Afghans suffer “prison-like conditions”. It said they have no freedom of movement, and suffer around-the-clock surveillance. The organisation also described a “mental health crisis” in the camp, adding it has learnt of at least one suicide attempt.

Shea said:

Governments should not ignore the shocking plight of these Afghans stranded in limbo in the UAE

The US government in particular, which coordinated the 2021 evacuations and with whom many evacuees worked before the Taliban takeover, should immediately step up and intervene.

Additional reporting via Agence France-Presse

Featured image via Youtube

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