AMNESTY International has raised the alarm over a mass expulsion of hundreds of Africans from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and urged the authorities to immediately halt all racially motivated detentions and deportations.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the organisation accused the UAE’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of embarking on an organised raid motivated by colourism on June 24-25, breaking doors open and arresting several Africans whom they detained in al-Wathba prison under inhumane and degrading conditions and subsequently deported, without due process.
“In detaining and arbitrarily deporting hundreds of African nationals en masse, based on racial targeting and with no legal due process, the UAE violated multiple provisions of international law,” Amnesty International said.
Some of these international laws breached are: the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), International Human Rights law and the customary rule of international law, applying to all states, that forbid forcible return of persons to a country where they are in danger of serious human rights violations.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on July 20, 2015, issued a law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of religion or ethnic identity. The law also bans discrimination on the grounds of caste, doctrine, color, or race.
But it seems to have violated its own law.
The UAE’s Ministry of Interior had issued a statement on September 3, stating that the arrests involving 376 women and men were carried out as part of legal procedures to address crimes related to human trafficking.
“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,” the ministry said.
However, 18 victims of the raid on African Migrants, including five Nigerians, who spoke with Amnesty International, denied any involvement in crime, saying that they had their documents with valid legal status in the UAE but were arrested and handcuffed between 2am and 4am from their homes without being told their offence.
The victims also said they were detained between one and two months in very crowded cells, with no access to their lawyers or families.
Four of those interviewed told Amnesty International that Police broke the buildings’ security cameras during the raids. They had found that their Internet networks at home were not functioning, so that images and messages of what was happening would not get out.
Women interviewed gave estimates ranging from 145 to 220 for the number held together in their hall. All the eight women interviewed told Amnesty International that there were only four toilets (sometimes only three functioning) in their hall and that they had to drink water from a tap in the toilet area.
An assistant at an international school Olokunde from Nigeria, deported on August 22, who was living in the Lagym building, reportedly accused the Police of not allowing her to change from her sleeping shorts and also molesting her.
“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.’ I was also molested. Those idiots was (were) touching my boobs (breasts),” she was quoted as saying.
Kabirat also described how the prison guards refused to give her the prescribed medication she had for an ulcer when she became very sick, in spite of her pleas.
Another detainee, a nurse from Cameroon who was three months pregnant at the time of her arrest, said she was separated from her husband and denied her medication prescribed for anemia the day before the raid.
Even though she pleaded to see a doctor, especially on days when she had severe abdominal pains, she only got a nurse who told her that the pain was ‘normal’ and would thereafter check her pulse.
“I went there three months pregnant, I came back and it was… five months, with no medical attention. My weight was 58, 59 [kilograms] before. I came out, my weight was 51… It was horrible,” she alleged.
All detainees interviewed, men and women, were consistent in reporting that they were given no masks, there was no periodic testing for COVID-19 and that conditions in detention were extremely crowded, such that they were put at high risk of transmission.
Keanfe Carlos Melachio from Cameroon said he saw over 30 buses waiting outside Lagym building to transport those apprehended. This was corroborated by Mary Anne, also from Cameroon, who said she saw “so many Police, with so many buses” carry Africans outside al-Medina building.
The detainees said they were returned to their home countries with nothing but their phones, passports, and some second-hand clothes – or with even less, as was the case of René Ngang, who was returned to Cameroon without even his passport.
They lost or forfeited items such as clothing, cash, bank savings, investments, TVs, stereos, tablets, phones, laptops, driver’s licenses, birth certificates, marriage certificates, school diplomas, university degrees, professional licenses, national ID cards, and medical records, including vaccination records.
Amnesty International said the detainees were deported in such a manner that they were stripped of virtually all personal possessions, in some cases including even proofs of legal identity, an experience that had “caused devastation in the lives of some of the most marginalized members of Emirati society at a time when the UAE government presents itself as a model country for multicultural tolerance.”
The organisation called on the UAE to walk the talk on multicultural equality by immediately stopping all racially motivated arrests and deportation targeting African migrant workers, and providing restitution to the victims of the June raids, who now lived in deprivation and in some cases in danger because of what the Emirati government had taken from them.
It also demanded restoration to the deportees, all property taken from them and compensation for the harassment and pain inflicted on them, while urging authorities to launch an independent investigation into the matter to identify and discipline the officials who ordered and organised the discriminatory raids of June 24-25 and the subsequent deportations.