Amnesty International has decried arbitrary detention and deportation of Africans in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
In a statement, Ghina Bou Chacra of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Regional office, cited the cases of some Nigerians and other fellow Africans.
She said: “On the night of 24-25 June 2021, police in Abu Dhabi broke into the homes of hundreds of migrant workers as they slept, targeting Black Africans in racially motivated arrests, detained them for weeks in al-Wathba prison and subsequently deported them without due process.
“While in detention, the authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) subjected them to inhuman and degrading treatment and stripped them of nearly all their belongings.
“Amnesty International spoke to 18 victims of these raids and deportations, (11 Cameroonians, five Nigerians, one Ugandan, and one Ghanaian, in total eight women and ten men) in September 2021.
“All 18 deportees said that the raids had targeted Black Africans in that the hundreds taken from their flats and held in al-Wathba with them were almost exclusively Black, and that the few Asian nationals arrested with them were taken because they happened to be living in the same flats as Africans.”
According to Chacra, at no stage did UAE authorities afford those deported any form of due process or the opportunity to challenge their detention or deportation order.
“The arrests and subsequent interrogations presented a consistent pattern of racially motivated, arbitrary arrests followed by incommunicado detention for weeks on end in inhumane, overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, followed by arbitrary deportation.
“Ricky” from Cameroon, deported 30 July, 2021, said:We “We want to make the world aware of such a barbaric act. We need justice. That is our cry.”
The statement added that after news was published about the deportations, the UAE’s Ministry of Interior issued a statement that the arrests “involving 376 women and men were carried out as part of legal procedures to address crimes related to human trafficking” and that “those arrested were found to be involved in these crimes, as the UAE was proactive in enacting a comprehensive law to combat human trafficking and preserve the rights of all groups of society in a way that protects victims and punishes violators of their rights while deterring those who commit such crimes.”
It also said the ministry further called on the media “not to circulate or disseminate any information not published by the relevant authorities.”
But Amnesty International said the fact that the deportations were conducted en masse amounts to collective expulsion, a violation of international law.
“This also carries the risk of forcibly returning individuals to a country where they face the risk of serious human rights violations, in other words, there is an additional risk of serious human rights violation,” Amnesty International said.
The organisation called on UAE to immediately halt racially motivated detentions and deportations and to urgently provide restitution to the hundreds of African nationals detained and deported in the operation launched on the morning of June 25, 2021.
“All 18 deportees interviewed reported that police forces raided their buildings around the hours of 2-4am on the night of 24-25 June 2021. Four of those interviewed said that they were able to identify some officers as being from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), which is part of Abu Dhabi General Police Headquarters.
“The federal Emirati Ministry of Interior “manag[es] security and police forces” for the country overall. All but one of the migrants whom Amnesty International spoke to had documents with valid legal status in the UAE when they were apprehended. The one exception, René Ngang from Cameroon, deported 22 August, said he also had valid legal status and was within days of having his renewed residency card delivered to him, but was unable to provide written proof because police had stripped him of all his documents and deported him without even his passport.
“Kabirat Olokunde from Nigeria, an assistant at an international school, deported 22 August, who was living in the Lagym building, said that the police had not allowed her to dress and handcuffed her despite the fact that she was in her sleeping shorts. She said: ‘I was asking them, ‘Why am I here? I’m not a criminal. I have my papers. Why are you bringing me here?’ And they told me, ‘Emirates give, Emirates take.’
“All those interviewed described the same pattern of racial targeting in the apprehensions. Deported residents of Lagym building said that there were people of various Asian and African nationalities living there, but that security forces had targeted the African residents, and that the handful of South and South East Asian residents detained were picked out because they were living with Africans,” Amnesty International said.