UAE turns to deportation to silence regime's critics

Gulf state tries to send activist to remote Comoros Islands, then offers him Thailand

The United Arab Emirates is trying to deport an activist to a country he has never set foot in, with a human rights group accusing the oil-rich state of increasingly wielding its power to grant or deny citizenship as a tool to crush any Arab Spring-style uprising.

While revolts have gripped many countries in the Middle East, the Gulf states have largely managed to escape the protests as their people enjoy the rewards of oil wealth, with well-paid state employment and benefits.

Still, there have been some signs of dissent, but these were dealt with in a swift and quiet crackdown. Members of the "UAE 5" group spent eight months in jail last year after signing a petition with more than 100 academics and other activists calling for universal suffrage. Several non-governmental organisations were dismantled. Now it seems the UAE is employing another tool to deal with dissenters. Ahmed Abdul Khaleq, one of the UAE 5 who was again detained without charge two weeks ago, called his family yesterday to tell them he was being deported to Thailand. The activist and blogger was initially told he would be sent to the Comoros Islands, off the coast of Madagascar.

Last week, seven members of Al Islah, an Islamist group affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, lost their battle to sue the interior ministry over its decision to strip them of citizenship after they were accused of perpetrating "acts threatening the national security of the UAE". They have spent two months in jail after refusing to sign a pledge promising to seek citizenship elsewhere.

"The UAE is increasingly using citizenship as a way to control dissent. It has become the latest weapon for UAE authorities eager to silence critics," said Samer Muscati, of Human Rights Watch. "It seems that arbitrary arrests, detentions and criminal trials against those who oppose the government are no longer enough. Now the authorities are trying to silence their critics by threatening to strip them of their citizenship and deport them."

Mr Khaleq's case highlights the precarious plight of the country's stateless bidoon people – literally meaning "without" in reference to their lack of citizenship. Between 10,000 and 100,000 bidoon live in the UAE. Most trace their roots to Iranian or South-east Asian traders who travelled to the emirates looking for work before the UAE was formed in 1971, or to nomads that traversed porous borders around the Gulf and failed to register for citizenship or lacked the preferred tribal affiliations.

Without documents such as passports, they are unable to leave the UAE and are forced to pay for the education and healthcare that comes free to Emiratis. Mr Khaleq's family emigrated from Pakistan's Balochistan province in the 1960s. He found himself in the government's sights as one of the UAE 5. While the others were quietly freed, the government appears to have seized upon Mr Khaleq's lack of citizenship. He was pressured into applying for a passport from the Comoros Islands, which has reportedly received $200m from the Gulf state to process passports for the bidoon, notionally to help them eventually obtain UAE citizenship.

But the day after his application was approved a fortnight ago, he was summoned to the immigration department, detained and told he was being deported to the archipelago. The Comoros, however, refused to play ball.

Mr Khaleq was then presented with a new choice for his exile – Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India or Thailand. "He has chosen Thailand," said Ahmed Mansoor, another of the UAE 5 who is in contact with Mr Khaleq's relatives. "He called his family [yesterday], confirmed to them that a final decision about his deportation [has been] taken and he will be deported next week."

No one from the UAE interior ministry was available to comment.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsDe Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Sport
England captain Wayne Rooney during training
FOOTBALLNew captain vows side will deliver against Norway for small crowd
Life and Style
Red or dead: An actor portrays Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory, rumoured to have bathed in blood to keep youthful
health
News
peopleJustin Bieber charged with assault and dangerous driving after crashing quad bike into a minivan
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Sport
Radamel Falcao poses with his United shirt
FOOTBALLRadamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant in Colombia to Manchester United's star signing
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Front-Office Developer (C#, .NET, Java,Artificial Intelligence)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Front-Of...

C++ Quant Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Developer C++, Python, STL, R, PD...

Java/Calypso Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Java/Calypso Developer Java, Calypso, J2EE, J...

SQL Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer SQL, C#, Stored Procedures, MDX...

Day In a Page

Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
9 best steam generator irons

9 best steam generator irons

To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
England v Norway: Wayne Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

New captain vows side will deliver for small Wembley crowd
‘We knew he was something special:’ Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing

‘We knew he was something special’

Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York