July 19, 2010

July 19, 2010

Lt-General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Minister of Interior
Human Rights Directorate

Your Excellency:

More than a year has passed since the United Arab Emirates started deporting hundreds of Lebanese citizens and Palestinians originating from the Gaza Strip. The UAE government has failed to provide any adequate justification for these deportations or to allow those affected to appeal the decision.

According to the Beirut-based Committee for Lebanese Deported from the UAE, the UAE has deported 120 Lebanese families without due process since June 2009, all of them Shiite. Human Rights Watch has interviewed nine of these deportees. Their testimony about being deported arbitrarily, without explanation or any opportunity for redress, raises concerns about the UAE’s commitment to human rights and its international legal obligations.

All of the deportees interviewed by Human Rights Watch informed us they were long-time lawful residents of the UAE; some had lived in the country for more than 30 years and owned homes and businesses there. Yet in June 2009, the eight men and one woman each received a call from immigration authorities in the UAE informing him that they had to leave the country with their families. Without receiving an explanation or an opportunity to appeal the decision, they were given days to pack their families’ belongings and leave the country, where many had spent most of their lives. Several incurred substantial financial losses, as they had little time to sell property or claim payment from employers.

Before deporting them, UAE authorities summoned some of these men and asked them which political party they supported in Lebanon. They also requested that the men provide information about Hezbollah and the political affiliations of other Lebanese residing in the UAE, raising serious concerns that their expulsions were politically motivated.

According to news reports, since June 2009 UAE authorities have also expelled scores of Palestinians, mainly from Gaza, after cancelling their work permits.

Under international law, governments have the right to regulate the presence of foreigners within their borders. However the process of deportation is subject to certain constraints. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, ratified by the UAE in 1974, prohibits discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or national origin. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has stated that this means that the UAE and all other state parties must “[e]nsure that laws concerning deportation or other forms of removal of non-citizens from the jurisdiction of the State party do not discriminate in purpose or effect among non-citizens on the basis of race, colour or ethnic or national origin, and that non-citizens have equal access to effective remedies, including the right to challenge expulsion orders, and are allowed effectively to pursue such remedies; and “[e]nsure that non-citizens are not subject to collective expulsion, in particular in situations where there are insufficient guarantees that the personal circumstances of each of the persons concerned have been taken into account.”

The Arab Charter for Human Rights, which came into force on March 15, 2008, following ratification by several Arab League member states, including the UAE, obliges governments to deport foreigners only in accordance with the law and to give deportees the opportunity to appeal their deportation order. It prohibits any form of collective expulsion. Under Article 26 (2) of the Arab Charter, “An alien lawfully in the territory of a State Party may be expelled only in pursuance of a decision reached according to the law and shall, except where compelling reasons of national security otherwise require, be given the possibility of having his case reviewed by a competent authority. Collective expulsions are prohibited in all cases.”

In light of these commitments, Human Rights Watch requests that the UAE government publicly states the steps that each deported person wishing to appeal his or her expulsion order may take, as well as the body that will rule on their appeals and on what basis it will do so, and that it will suspend any deportation pending an appeal. The UAE government should also provide this information individually to each person who has been summarily deported.

Sincerely,

Sarah Leah Whitson
Executive Director
Middle East and North Africa Division
Human Rights Watch

Cc. Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba, Embassy of United Arab Emirates in Washington, DC