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Over 2,000 Afghan Evacuees Detained in UAE – Human Rights Watch

WASHINGTON, March 15 (Reuters) – Human Rights Watch accused UAE authorities on Wednesday of arbitrarily detaining as many as 2,700 Afghan evacuees for more than 15 months with no legal path to refugee status or resettlement elsewhere.

Many people living in humanitarian cities in the UAE suffer from depression and other mental illnesses, do not have access to legal advice, and their children do not receive adequate educational services, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

“Living conditions have also deteriorated markedly, with detainees describing overcrowding, decaying infrastructure and infestation,” the report said of the Abu Dhabi facility.

Human Rights Watch did not receive a response to a request for comment from the UAE’s interior and foreign ministries, the report said.

The U.S. State Department office, which oversees Afghan resettlement, told the group in a letter that the U.S. commitment to resettle eligible Afghans — including those in humanitarian cities in the UAE — was an “enduring commitment,” the report said. .

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Emirati officials have previously said the UAE offered to temporarily host thousands of Afghan refugees evacuated after the Taliban took over Kabul in August 2021.

They said the UAE was committed to ensuring that Afghan evacuees lived in safety, security and dignity and that Abu Dhabi was working with the US embassy to resettle them.

Private evacuation groups and the Emirati military sent thousands of Afghans to the UAE during the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan that ended a 20-year war. After the United States left, some private groups continued to charter flights to evacuate.

Evacuees were housed in the UAE Humanitarian City and Tasamim Workers City – apartment complexes converted into refugee housing – and many were eventually allowed to resettle in the United States, Canada and other countries.

However, between 2,500 and 2,700 Afghans were not eligible for resettlement elsewhere and, as of January, remained in what the report described as “arbitrary detention”.

“UAE authorities have held thousands of Afghan asylum seekers in overcrowded, miserable conditions for more than 15 months with no hope of progressing their cases,” said Joey Shea, UAE researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Sixteen Afghans interviewed by the group late last year said they were not free to leave the site because they were watched closely by security guards or caregivers when they went to the hospital, the only time they were allowed to visit the mall.

Emirati authorities did not respect international law and United Nations guidelines for handling asylum seekers and migrants, making their detention “arbitrary”, the report said.

The UAE is not a party to the UN Refugee Convention.

Human Rights Watch called on the UAE to immediately release the Afghans, allow them “fair and individualized” processing to determine their refugee status and protection claims, and allow them to live where they want until their cases are resolved.

The group urged the State Department to use its influence to secure the Afghans’ release and expedite any applications for asylum or humanitarian parole.

The US has resettled more than 88,000 Afghans who were evacuated during and after the US withdrawal. However, thousands of people working for the U.S. government remain in Afghanistan, waiting for their applications for special immigrant visas to be processed.

Reporting by Jonathan Randy; Editing by Sonali Paul

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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