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HRW: UAE has detained over 2,500 Afghan asylum seekers for over 15 months

March 15, 2023 at 10:52 am

Asylum seekers, including Syrians, Afghans, Iranians and Uzbeks on March 05, 2020 [Arif Hüdaverdi Yaman/Anadolu Agency]

The UAE has arbitrarily detained up to 2,700 Afghan asylum seekers for over 15 months, says Human Rights Watch, who is calling on the Gulf State to urgently release them.

The UAE took in thousands of Afghans in the months following the Taliban takeover of Kabul in August 2021 when tens and thousands were evacuated around the world.

But the asylum seekers the UAE took in were transferred to the Emirates Humanitarian City and Tasameem Workers City apartment complexes that the government has turned into government-run refugee housing.

Though some of these Afghan asylum seekers were resettled in the US and Canada, others remain arbitrarily detained there.

Afghans detained at the Emirates Humanitarian City reported that their freedom of movement had been restricted including for hospital visits, that there were inadequate education services for children, and that they did not have adequate access to legal counsel.

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HRW has said that without adequate psychosocial support, adults and children are suffering from depression other mental health conditions, described as a widespread mental health crisis.

The conditions of the camp are overcrowded, the infrastructure is decaying, and there are insect infestations including bed bugs, according to interviews the rights watchdog carried out with some of the asylum seekers held there.

The report states that because the UAE is not adhering to international law and UNHCR guidelines on asylum seekers and migrants, their detention is arbitrary and said that they should be released without delay.

“The continued detention of the Afghans is unnecessary and arbitrary,” says HRW.

“Immigration detention should be an exceptional measure of last resort, for the shortest period, and only if justified by a legitimate purpose.”

“The UAE should immediately release Afghan evacuees, particularly detained children and their families.”