More than 2,000 Afghan evacuees in detention in UAE: Human Rights Watch

WASHINGTON (Reuters): Human Rights Watch on Wednesday accused Emirati authorities of arbitrarily detaining for more than 15 months as many as 2,700 Afghan evacuees who have no legal pathways to refugee status or resettlement elsewhere.

Many of those housed in Emirates Humanitarian City are suffering from depression and other psychological ailments, have no access to legal counsel, and have inadequate educational services for their children, a Human Rights Watch report said.

“Living conditions have also deteriorated significantly, with detainees describing overcrowding, decay of infrastructure, and insect infestations,” the report said of the facility in Abu Dhabi.

The report said Human Rights Watch received no responses to requests for comment from the UAE ministries of interior and foreign affairs.

The US State Department office that handles the relocation of Afghans told the group in a letter that the U.S. commitment to resettling eligible Afghans – including those in Emirates Humanitarian City – is an “enduring one”, the report said.

Emirati officials previously have said the UAE offered to temporarily host thousands of Afghan refugees evacuated after the Taliban takeover of Kabul in August 2021.

The UAE, they have said, was committed to ensuring Afghan evacuees lived in safety, security and dignity, and Abu Dhabi was working with the U.S. embassy to resettle them.

Private evacuation groups and the Emirati military flew thousands of Afghans into the UAE during the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan that ended 20 years of war. Several private groups continued chartered evacuation flights after the U.S. departure.