News ID: 99895
Publish Date : 11 February 2022 - 22:28

Afghan Refugees Protest Prison-Like Conditions in UAE

DUBAI (Middle East Eye) – Hundreds of Afghans have launched a rare protest at a United Arab Emirates (UAE) facility where they have been housed since fleeing their homeland last year, holding banners pleading for freedom.
Thousands of Afghans were last year evacuated to the Persian Gulf state on behalf of the U.S. and other Western countries amid the chaotic U.S.-led withdrawal from Afghanistan and return to power of the Taliban.
The UAE, a close U.S. partner, agreed to provide Afghans with temporary housing as they waited to be resettled elsewhere.
Six months later, however, many are still in the UAE, living in tightly controlled facilities.
Protests started on Wednesday and continued on Thursday, two demonstrators told Reuters on the condition of anonymity, fearing retribution from authorities for speaking out.
One of the protesters said conditions in the facilities were prison-like, and that as protests broke out some Afghans had been detained by Emirati authorities.
A U.S. embassy official visited the facility on Thursday after the protests had started, and said there was no clear timeline for all to be processed and that it was unlikely all would ever go to the U.S., one protester said.
The UAE government and the U.S. embassy in Abu Dhabi had no immediate comment on the protests.
It is unclear how many Afghans are being housed in the UAE, which last September said it had evacuated 9,000 Afghan nationals who were on their way to third countries.
Advocates and protesters estimate there are 12,000 housed across two facilities in Abu Dhabi.
The U.S. is prioritizing those who had visas or applications to go to the U.S. but two sources familiar with the Abu Dhabi facilities said many there had neither.
Along with individuals who worked with the U.S. and the Afghan armed forces, the facility includes people who have no clear pathway to be resettled in the U.S. or a third country.
A protest sign at one of the Abu Dhabi facilities read: “When we were evacuated, the [U.S.] Dept of Defence had the control of the [Kabul] airport. No one came by themselves.”
Some Afghans had threatened to go on a hunger strike in protest as they wait for resettlement, while a small group had asked to return to Afghanistan.