Human Rights Watch on Wednesday accused the United Arab Emirates of “arbitrarily” detaining at least 2,400 Afghan asylum seekers in unsanitary conditions for more than a year.
Between 2,400 and 2,700 Afghans who left their country for the Emirates when the Taliban took over Kabul in August 2021 are being held in temporary facilities, with restricted access to legal aid and restrictions on their freedom of movement, according to a report released Wednesday.
HRW interviewed 16 Afghans residing in this complex called “Emirates Humanitarian City”, who denounced in particular overcrowding, dilapidated infrastructure and insect invasions.
“The Emirati authorities have kept thousands of Afghan asylum seekers locked up for more than 15 months in overcrowded, miserable conditions with no hope of progress on their case,” accuses Joey Shea, researcher on the Emirates for the NGO.
Quoted in this report, an Afghan described the Emirates Humanitarian City as a “camp”. “This camp is like a prison,” he said.
HRW calls for the immediate release of these “arbitrarily detained” Afghans, among whom are women and children.
The Emirati authorities have agreed to temporarily host them, at the request of the United States, while waiting for another country to offer them hospitality, according to a government official.
“The UAE continues to work with the US Embassy to process (travellers) and are in contact with their US counterparts as part of efforts to settle the last (Afghans) evacuees in a timely manner,” he said. he told AFP, on condition of anonymity.
“We understand that there are frustrations and that it took longer than expected,” he added.
According to him, the authorities provide asylum seekers with “high quality accommodation, sanitary facilities, medical, hospital, educational, food and legal advice”.
HRW for its part evokes a serious “mental health crisis”, saying that it has identified at least one suicide attempt. The NGO called on the international community “not to ignore the shocking plight of these forgotten Afghans in the Emirates”.
“The American government, in particular, (…) for which many refugees worked before the takeover of the Taliban, should immediately intervene,” said HRW.
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