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
News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Sport
Harry Redknapp. Mark Hughes and Ryan Shawcross
footballNews and updates as Queens Park Rangers host the Potters
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
i100... with this review
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
New Articles
i100
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
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

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam