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2 Sep 2021

UAE: 700 African workers detained, abused and deported without due process in “racially-motivated” raids

Thomson Reuters Foundation revealed this week that hundreds of African workers were detained during a two-night raid in June 2021, abused in detention and some deported after five weeks . The report called the mass arrests “unparalleled”.

The article draws on investigations by two NGOs, ImpACT International and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, who interviewed over 100 migrant workers. Up to 700 workers have reportedly been impacted in racially-motivated deportations. Both male and female workers described sexual abuse and harassment by interrogators in detention. The full report can be read below.

The deportations have been deemed illegal; many workers had valid residency permits and work visas, workers were denied due process and access to their belongings. More African workers have since been arrested and 100 workers remain in detention, according to Euro-Med Monitor.

In a statement issued on 3 September, the UAE Ministry of Interior denied the allegations of serious violations against African workers in UAE, noting that their arrest and deportation were carried out in accordance to law and based on evidence that the workers have committed acts against the public morals in the UAE and were involved in prostitution and human trafficking networks.

On 5 September, the Workers Unions in Africa (ITCU-Africa) issued a statement condemning the acts carried out by the Emirati government against African workers. The statement accuses the UAE authorities of using excessive force against the workers and denying them their right to legal representation while in detention.

On 17 September it emerged that Cameroonian workers were among those deported, prompting Human Rights Watch to accuse the UAE Government of committing refoulement by returning workers to Cameroon who would likely be caught up in secessionist/ government violence.

On 26 October, Amnesty International published research gathered through interviews with 18 victims of the raids from Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana and Uganda, with similar findings of a racist pattern of arrests, detentions and deportations. They called on the UAE government to provide the impacted workers with appropriate redress.

The abuses outlined demonstrate that migrants have had their rights to due process violated, and their detention conditions could amount to ill-treatment. It is horrific that the UAE authorities appear to be conducting a secret campaign of mass arrests of African migrants, without any clear legal basis for such arrests or detention.
Rothna Begum, HRW's women's rights researcher in the Middle East
The scale of this racially motivated deportation is completely unprecedented. The victims and other migrants who aspire to work safely in the UAE have had this right unjustly revoked. Its consequences will be felt for years to come.
Michela Pugliese, a migration researcher at Euro-Med Monitor