United Arab Emirates

Detains migrants or asylum seekers?

Yes

Has laws regulating migration-related detention?

Yes

Refugees

1,393

2023

Asylum Applications

7,106

2023

International Migrants

8,716,332

2020

Population

9,500,000

2023

Overview

(January 2016) Despite its efforts to cultivate a reputation as a bastion of culture and tourism in the Gulf, the United Arab Emirates imposes harsh conditions on foreign workers, systematically represses those who speak out about abuses, and prevents investigations of its detention and incarceration of non-citizens. What little information is available about detention must be gleaned through reviewing relevant legislation, media reports, reports from foreign governments, as well as studies undertaken by international NGOs. Taken together, these sources appear to point to a burgeoning immigration detention regime in the UAE that has little independent review or oversight.

Types of facilities used for migration-related detention
Administrative Ad Hoc Criminal Unknown

05 July 2022 – United Arab Emirates

In June, the Global Detention Project (GDP) and Migrant-Rights.org issued a joint submission to the Committee against Torture concerning issues related to immigration detention in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The submission highlights prolonged detention periods, poor detention conditions, as well as instances of deportation without recourse to legal remedies. The GDP and Migrant-Rights.org encouraged […]

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Two Women Handcuffed Before Being Moved to a Separate Cell in al-Wathba Prison (Migrant-Rights.org,

13 June 2020 – United Arab Emirates

The country’s lockdown measures, including the temporary closure of hotels, have left many migrant workers out of work. Although UAE authorities have allowed repatriation flights to take place, many countries have refused to allow their own nationals to return. Migrant workers in the UAE also have higher numbers of COVID-19 cases, mainly due to their […]

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Prisoners Reading inside the Dubai's Central Prison Library, (Giuseppe Cacace, AFP,

14 April 2020 – United Arab Emirates

Thousands of Ethiopian workers – including large numbers of domestic workers – were deported from the UAE (as well as Saudi Arabia) over the weekend (10-12 April). Deported on cargo planes, some were reported to be displaying symptoms of Covid-19, although none had been tested for the virus. According to the UAE government, they were […]

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23 March 2020 – United Arab Emirates

UAE authorities provide little information regarding where non-citizens are detained for immigration-related reasons. Some sources indicate that the country has operated at least one dedicated deportation facility, but detainees are also known to have been held in criminal prisons. Authorities announced on 23 March 2020 that all inbound, outbound, and transit flights would be suspended […]

Read More…

Inside an Emirati Prison, (https://thearabmirror.com/%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%81%D9%8A%D8%AF%D9%8A%D9%88-%D8%AA%D8%AD%D9%82%D9%8A%D9%82-%D8%AF%D9%88%D9%84%D9%8A-%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%B5%D8%A7%D8%AF%D9%85%D8%A9-%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B9/)
Last updated: June 2022

Immigration Detention in the United Arab Emirates: Joint Submission to the Committee against Torture

    The Global Detention Project (GDP) is an independent research centre based in Geneva, Switzerland, that promotes the human rights of detained migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees. It works to improve transparency in the treatment of detainees, to encourage adherence to fundamental norms, to reinforce advocacy aimed at reforming detention practices, and to promote scholarship of immigration control regimes.

    Migrant-Rights.org is a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) based advocacy platform working to advance the rights of migrant workers. It aims to change perspectives towards migrant workers by improving access to information on migration in the Gulf region and its migration corridors and promoting informed, local discussion on migration issues. Both off and online, Migrant-Rights.org engages residents, local businesses, and employers to challenge perspectives towards migrants and improve working conditions.

    The two organisations welcome the opportunity to provide information relevant to the consideration of the 74th periodic review of the United Arab Emirates to the Convention Against Torture. This submission concerns issues specifically related to immigration detention, or the detention of foreigners for reasons related to their non-citizen status.

    1. CONTEXT

    Migrants account for nearly 80 percent of the UAE’s population and 90 percent of the labour force. The Kafala system, or sponsorship system, ties migrant workers' legal status to employers.  With only the exception of very wealthy investors, most migrant workers cannot access any form of long-term or permanent residency, and the Ministry of Interior has a wide breadth to deport non-citizens without a court order.

    The UAE routinely detains and deports non-nationals for immigration violations or violations of “public security or morals.” While these practices were reduced or paused for a period during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, they resumed even while the virus remained a significant risk.

    Detained non-citizens in the UAE frequently face arbitrary arrests, poor conditions of detention, an inability to access information about their cases, and deportation without recourse to legal remedies. Their treatment amounts to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, prohibited by Article 16 of the Convention Against Torture.

    The UAE does not provide publicly accessible data on the number or nationality of non-nationals detained or deported. In January 2022, the Global Detention Project and Migrant-Rights.org issued a joint information request to the Ministry of Interior and the Human Rights Office of the Justice Department asking for information about the numbers of people detained and deported for migration-related reasons in recent years as well as an up-to-date list of facilities used for this purpose. As of this writing, we have not received any responses to our requests. 

    Despite the lack of transparency in UAE’s detention practices, there have been numerous reports revealing arbitrary detention and mistreatment in detention centres, including from the media and human rights organisations. [i]  

    The mass deportation of hundreds of African migrant workers in the summer of 2021 revealed the extent to which these violations have become standard practices in the UAE. An estimated 800 workers primarily from Uganda, Nigeria, and Cameroon were rounded up – most in their bedclothes, some even naked – and put onto buses without explanation. They were detained for up to several months without charge, without information about the reason for their detention, and with almost no access to their embassy officials. They were then deported without redress, and without the opportunity to retrieve personal belongings or owed wages.

    In addition to these issues, Cameroonian migrant workers who were part of this group were refouled to a country of conflict, in violation of the CAT and non-refoulement principles of international law. Many of these migrants, now either back home or in third countries to escape conflict, continue to bear the scars of their detention and the upheaval it has caused in their lives.

    1.2  Adherence to international conventions

    The UAE has ratified only half of the core international human rights treaties. It has not ratified key instruments relevant to the protection against arbitrary detention, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Human Rights of Migrant Workers and Their Families. It has also not ratified the 1951Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

    Upon ratification of the Convention against Torture, the UAE issued a declaration aimed at narrowing the definition of torture provided for in Article 1 which stated:

    “...sanctions applicable under national law, or pain or suffering arising from or associated with or incidental to these lawful sanctions, do not fall under the concept of “torture” defined in article 1 of this Convention or under the concept of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment mentioned in this Convention.”

    In response, more than a dozen states parties to the Convention registered official objections to this reservation with the UN Secretariat for being “incompatible with the object and purpose of the Convention.” [ii]

    1.3  Legal Framework

    Although UAE law provides safeguards to all people in the country, it provides wide scope for detaining and deporting non-citizens, making them vulnerable to arbitrary and abusive detention measures as well as criminal penalties.

    According to Article 26 of the UAE Constitution, “No person may be arrested, searched, detained or imprisoned except in accordance with the provisions of law. No person shall be subjected to torture or to degrading treatment.” Article 28 prohibits “the physical and mental abuse of an accused person.” [iii]  The Emirati Penal Code explicitly prohibits the use of torture by officials: Article 242 states that “any public official who uses torture, force or threat against an accused person, a witness or an expert, either directly or indirectly, for the purpose of obtaining a confession to an offence, or coercing the person into making a statement shall be sentenced to a fixed term of imprisonment.” While Article 344 reads: “Whoever illegally kidnaps, arrests, detains or deprives a person of his freedom, whether by himself or through another by any means without lawful justification, shall be punished by term imprisonment.” Punishment can be up to life imprisonment.[iv] Article 2 of the Code of Criminal Procedures (Federal Law No. (35) of 1992 Concerning The Criminal Procedural Law) also prohibits the “torture or degrading treatment” of any person.

    These safeguards notwithstanding, there remain a number of legal protection gaps and an even wider gap between law and practice in the country. The law permits indefinite detention, including incommunicado detention, without appeal.

    Federal Law No (6) for 1973 Concerning "Immigration and Residence” provides for  administrative detention measures in certain circumstances, including to execute a deportation or as punishment for violating immigration provisions, as well as criminal measures.[v] Aliens can be detained for up to three months for failing to maintain a valid residence permit; failing to leave the country after cancellation or expiry of an entry or residence permit; or failing to pay overstay fines (Article 21).

    Article 29 provides for the deportation of any alien who does not have a residence permit, or who has not renewed his permit in accordance with legal requirements, or whose permit has been cancelled. Article 23 allows authorities to order the deportation of a non-national—even if holding a residence permit — if he has no apparent means of living; or if the security authorities see that public interest or public security or public morals require his deportation. According to the US Country Report on Human Rights practices in the UAE, when authorities suspect a foreigner of crimes of “moral turpitude,” authorities sometimes deport the individual without recourse to the criminal justice system.

    Authorities may also detain any foreigner against whom a deportation order has been issued for a period not exceeding thirty days which may be extended for a similar period if such arrest is necessary to carry out the deportation order (Article 25). Under Article 26, the Ministry of Interior is to bear the costs if the foreigner cannot cover the expense of deportation. Article 28 provides that anyone ordered deported may not return to the UAE, except with special permission from the Minister of Interior.

    Article 31 provides criminal penalties for anyone who enters the UAE illegally, including imprisonment for a period of “not less than one month” and/or fines of “not less than 1,000 Dirham” (approximately $270), followed by deportation ordered by the court. Article 35, a catch-all general provision, states that any person who violates the provisions of this law or related regulations shall be punished with imprisonment for a period not exceeding three months and a fine of no less than one thousand Dirham (approximately $270).

    Despite these legal provisions, migration-related detention measures often appear to be wielded arbitrarily and in an ad hoc manner. In the instance of the mass deportation of African migrants, no explanation was provided to the workers for their detention. The only common thread between the detainees was the colour of their skin. In a public statement made after the deportations denying any transgression of justice or racial motivation, the UAE claimed that the workers were linked to a sweeping catalogue of crimes including “prostitution networks, human trafficking, indecent acts, extortion, and assault.” The public statement also claimed that workers were only deported after “due legal process,” which contradicted the testimonies of more than a hundred workers interviewed by Migrant-Rights.org,[vi] ImpACT International, and Euro-Mediterranean Human Right Monitor.[vii]

    In 2021, six deported Cameroonians told the Thomson Reuters Foundation (TRF) that they were repeatedly denied access to lawyers or information about the charges against them following their arrest, and that their concerns about the ongoing violence back home were dismissed. The Cameroon’s consul-general in Dubai also told TRF he had received “no official information” from the UAE’s foreign ministry on the arrests and deportations, despite three written requests. Attempts to visit the prisoners at al-Wathba prison were denied.[viii]

    Just as it has not yet ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention, the UAE has also failed to implement a transparent or codified system for providing protection to asylum seekers or refugees. It has been accused of detaining and refoulement of individuals, including members of the Uyghur community.[ix]

    1.4  Length of Detention

    Migrants and refugees can remain in detention anywhere from a month to more than a year. Some of the factors that can prolong detention include: difficulties getting passport/travel documents (especially for those whose passports are held by sponsors who will not return them); procuring the funds to pay overstay fees; waiting for a clearance or “no objection letter” from local police before leaving (which can be delayed if there are claims against a worker for theft, or if the migrant has any debts from loans); and in case of refugees, waiting until a resettlement country accepts them.

    1.5  Detention Conditions and Treatment

    The government does not release statistics on prison demographics and capacity, and non-governmental organisations are not authorised to visit prisons and report on their conditions. However, detainees have frequently complained of overcrowding, lack of adequate medical care, and other abuses.

    Migrants detained in the summer of 2021 told Migrant-Rights.org of overcrowded, unhygienic conditions in al-Wathba prison, even amid the risks of the ongoing pandemic. Authorities held migrants 62 to a cell, depriving them of hygiene products. They did not receive soap, toothpaste, or a change of clothes until over a month after their detention. They drank only dirty tap water and were forced to compete for a handful of paracetamol pills in lieu of actual medical care.[x]

    Accounts from other detainees indicate that such practices are commonplace. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), at least four HIV-positive prisoners in Dubai’s al-Awir Central Jail were allegedly denied medication for periods as long as five months.

    Women detainees also face protection gaps. Victoria Edem, a Cameroonian nurse who was three months pregnant when she was arrested with her husband, told TRF she had no access to her anaemia medication during her two-month detention and lost seven kilograms.[xi]

    Holding prisoners in unsanitary conditions and in prolonged detention without charge puts their mental and physical at risk, in violation of Article 16 of the Convention Against Torture.

    There are frequent reports of prison guard brutality, discrimination against non-citizens and women, lack of medical access, and administrative deportation without the opportunity to appeal.[xii] These issues amount to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, prohibited by Article 16 of the CAT.

    According to the 2020 US Country Report on human rights practices in the UAE, there were no public reports of impunity involving officials, but there was also no publicly available information on whether authorities investigated complaints of police abuses, including prison conditions and mistreatment.[xiii] The 2021 report also stated that there have been reports of mistreatment, abuse, and torture in state security detention facilities. Prisoners complained to embassy representatives about routine abuse of fellow inmates, including long periods of solitary confinement and confinement in non-cooled spaces where temperatures could reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit for most of the year. [xiv]

    2. RECOMMENDATIONS

    We encourage the Committee to make the following recommendations to the State Party with regard to its migration-related detention policies and practices: 

    • People placed in migration-related detention should not be tortured or mistreated while in detention;
    • Provide public statistics on the practice, scope and conditions of immigration detention, including information about the sites of detention used for migration-related detention purposes as well as annual data on the numbers of people detained for migration-related reasons and disaggregated data on the age, gender, and nationalities of migrant detainees;
    • Trafficked persons must be identified and never subjected to criminal penalties, never detained, and always provided appropriate care and assistance;
    • Ensure that domestic workers and all other migrant workers are not treated as “runaways" when fleeing from abusive working conditions; not prosecuted for “absconding”; and not punished with fines, imprisonment, or deportation;
    • Women and their children, as well as separated or unaccompanied children, who are slated for deportation should never be detained and instead provided with appropriate care and assistance in the community;
    • Ensure non-discrimination on the basis of race, nationality, ethnic origin with respect to decisions to detain and deport, as well as conditions of detention, and access to legal and consular representation;
    • Improve conditions in detention, including by: eliminating overcrowding in detention centres; ensuring access to medical care, medicines, and hygiene products, including gender-specific items; ensuring that all sites of detention are clean, meet basic hygienic conditions, and provide adequate quality and quantity of food; implementing all COVID-19 mediation measures in detention centres, including social distancing, testing, PPE, and vaccines; provide specialist medical care, including for HIV positive detainees, pregnant women, and others with special needs.
    • Each migration-related detention order should be on the basis of an individual assessment of each case, assessing the necessity and proportionality in light of possible alternative non-custodial measures;
    • Ensure that detention is maintained for the shortest time possible;
    • Ensure that each detention order is regularly and automatically reviewed by a judicial organ;
    • Immigration detainees must be segregated from criminal prisoners;
    • Immigration detainees should have access to consular authorities when they wish;
    • Ensure access to immigration detainees by family members, civil society groups, and legal representatives;
    • Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) and establish an OPCAT-mandated National Preventive Mechanism empowered to investigate all sites of detention, including immigration detention centres, and in the meantime ensure that an ombudsperson can monitor the situation of immigration detainees and receive and investigate complaints;
    • Ratify other key human rights treaties, including in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Human Rights of Migrant Workers and Their Families.
    • Withdraw its declaration limiting the scope of Article 1 of the Convention against Torture.
    • Accede to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol and adopt national asylum legislation.
    • Uphold the fundamental obligation of non-refoulement as provided for under Article 3 of the Convention Against Torture.

     SEE ALSO:


    [i] For example:

     (1) Amnesty International, “Human Rights In The Middle East And North Africa: Review Of 2018 - United Arab Emirates.” https://www.ecoi.net/en/file/local/2003677/MDE2598992019ENGLISH.pdf

    (2) Human Rights Watch, “UAE: Eight Lebanese Face Unfair Trial,” 25 March 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/03/25/uae-eight-lebanese-face-unfair-trial

    (3) Human Rights Watch, “UAE: Reported Covid-19 Prison Outbreaks,” 10 June 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/06/10/uae-reported-covid-19-prison-outbreaks

     (4) France 24, “France opens case against Interpol president over Britons detained in UAE,” 5 May 2022, https://www.france24.com/en/europe/20220511-france-opens-case-against-interpol-president-over-uae-torture-allegations

    [ii] United Nations Treaty Collection, Chapter IV Human Rights, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, New York, 10 December 1984, Status as at 13 October 2015, https://treaties.un.org/pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-9&chapter=4&lang=en#EndDec.

    [iii] United Arab Emirates's Constitution of 1971 with Amendments through 2009 https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/United_Arab_Emirates_2009.pdf?lang=en

    [iv] Federal Law No (3) of 1987 on Issuance of The Penal Code, https://www.icrc.org/ihl-nat/6fa4d35e5e3025394125673e00508143/e656047207c93f99c12576b2003ab8c1/$FILE/Penal%20Code.pdf

    [v]  Law No (6) for 1973 Concerning Immigration and Residence As amended By virtue of law 7 of 1985, Law 13 of 1996And Federal Decree- Law No. 17 of 2017 https://www.tlg.ae/source/uploads/ck_files/1561466522.pdf

    [vi] Migrant-Rights.org, “We cried and we begged,” 22 September 2022,  https://www.migrant-rights.org/2021/09/we-cried-and-begged/

    [vii] EuroMed Monitor “They told us they hated black Africans,” 02 September 2021, https://euromedmonitor.org/en/article/4600/%E2%80%9CThey-told-us-they-hated-black-Africans%E2%80%9D:-UAE-authorities-detain,-torture,-and-deport-over-800-migrants

    [viii] Thomson Reuters Foundation, “ Cameroonian migrants deported from UAE face conflict or exile,” 17 September 2021, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-emirates-rights-cameroon-feature/cameroonian-migrants-deported-from-uae-face-conflict-or-exile-idUSKBN2GD014

    [ix] The Washington Post, “Opinion: A detainee says China has a secret jail in Dubai. China’s repression may be spreading.” 22 August, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/08/22/detainee-says-china-has-secret-jail-dubai-chinas-repression-may-be-spreading/

    [x]  Migrant-Rights.org, “We cried and we begged,” 22 September 2021, https://www.migrant-rights.org/2021/09/we-cried-and-begged/

    [xi] Thomson Reuters Foundation, “ Cameroonian migrants deported from UAE face conflict or exile,” 17 September 2021, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-emirates-rights-cameroon-feature/cameroonian-migrants-deported-from-uae-face-conflict-or-exile-idUSKBN2GD014

    [xii] U.S. State Department, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – United Arab Emirates, 2014-2021 https://www.state.gov/reports/2021-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/united-arab-emirates/

    [xiii]  U.S. State Department, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – United Arab Emirates, 2020 https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/united-arab-emirates

    [xiv] U.S. State Department,  Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – United Arab Emirates, 2020   https://www.state.gov/reports/2021-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/united-arab-emirates/

    DETENTION STATISTICS

    Migration Detainee Entries
    Not Available
    2021
    Not Available
    2020
    14,000
    1999
    Alternative Total Migration Detainee Entries
    Not Available
    2021
    Not Available
    2020
    Total Migration Detainees (Entries + Remaining from previous year)
    Not Available
    2021
    Not Available
    2020
    Not Available
    2018
    Alternative Total Migration Detainees
    Not Available
    2021
    Not Available
    2020
    Reported Detainee Population (Day)
    Not Available Not Available
    2021
    Not Available Not Available
    2020
    Not Available Not Available
    2018
    Average Daily Detainee Population (year)
    Not Available
    2021
    Not Available
    2020
    Immigration Detainees as Percentage of Total Migrant population (Year)
    Not Available
    2021
    Not Available
    2020
    Not Available
    2018

    DETAINEE DATA

    Countries of Origin (Year)
    2021
    2020
    2018
    Number of Asylum Seekers Placed in Immigration Detention (Year)
    0
    2021
    0
    2020
    0
    2018
    Number of Women Placed in Immigration Detention (year)
    0
    2021
    0
    2020
    Total Number of Children Placed in Immigration Detention (Year)
    0
    2021
    0
    2020
    0
    2018
    Number of Unaccompanied Children Placed in Immigration Detention (Year)
    0
    2021
    0
    2020
    0
    2018
    Number of Accompanied Children Placed in Immigration Detention (Year)
    0
    2021
    0
    2020
    0
    2018
    Number of Stateless Persons Placed in Immigration Detention (Year)
    0
    2021
    0
    2020
    0
    2018
    Number of Deaths in Immigration Custody (year)
    0
    2021
    0
    2020
    Cases of Self-Harming and Suicide Attempts in Immigration Custody (Year)
    0
    2021
    0
    2020

    DETENTION CAPACITY

    Total Immigration Detention Capacity
    0
    2021
    0
    2018
    Immigration Detention Capacity (Specialised Immigration Facilities Only)
    0
    2021
    0
    2017
    Number of Dedicated Immigration Detention Centres
    0
    2021
    0
    2017

    ALTERNATIVES TO DETENTION

    Number of Detainees Referred to ATDs (Year)
    0
    2021
    0
    2020
    0
    2018
    Official ATD Absconder Rate (Percentage)(Year)
    0
    2021
    0
    2020
    Number of People in ATDs on Given Day
    0
    2021
    0
    2020

    ADDITIONAL ENFORCEMENT DATA

    Percentage of Detainees Released (year)
    0
    2021
    0
    2020
    Percentage of Detainees Deported (year)
    0
    2021
    0
    2020
    Number of Deportations/Forced Removals (Year)
    0
    2021
    0
    2020
    0
    2017
    Number of Voluntary Returns & Deportations (Year)
    0
    2021
    0
    2020
    0
    2017
    Percentage of Removals v. Total Removal Orders (Year)
    2021
    2020
    2017
    Number of People Refused Entry (Year)
    0
    2021
    0
    2020
    Number of Apprehensions of Non-Citizens (Year)
    0
    2021
    0
    2020
    0
    2018

    PRISON DATA

    Criminal Prison Population (Year)
    0
    2021
    11,193
    2017
    9,826
    2014
    Percentage of Foreign Prisoners (Year)
    2021
    92
    2017
    87.8
    2014
    Prison Population Rate (per 100,000 of National Population)
    0
    2021
    104
    2014

    POPULATION DATA

    Population (Year)
    9,500,000
    2023
    9,991,083
    2021
    9,900,000
    2020
    9,121,167
    2016
    9,157,000
    2015
    International Migrants (Year)
    8,716,332
    2020
    8,716,332
    2020
    8,587,256
    2019
    8,313,000
    2017
    8,095,000
    2015
    International Migrants as Percentage of Population (Year)
    88.13
    2020
    88.1
    2020
    88.4
    2017
    88.4
    2015
    Estimated Undocumented Population (Year)
    Not Available (Not Available)
    2021
    Not Available (Not Available)
    2020
    Not Available (Not Available)
    2018
    Not Available (Not Available)
    2017
    Refugees (Year)
    1,393
    2023
    1,355
    2021
    1,330
    2020
    1,242
    2019
    1,164
    2018
    888
    2017
    895
    2016
    424
    2015
    417
    2014
    Ratio of Refugees Per 1000 Inhabitants (Year)
    0.13
    2021
    0.13
    2020
    0.1
    2016
    0.05
    2014
    Asylum Applications (Year)
    7,106
    2023
    7,203
    2021
    98
    2020
    1,642
    2019
    506
    2016
    615
    2016
    261
    2014
    Number of People Granted Temporary Protection Status (Year)
    Not Available
    2021
    Not Available
    2020
    Refugee Recognition Rate (Year)
    Not Available
    2021
    100
    2020
    100
    2014
    Stateless Persons (Year)
    0
    2022
    0
    2021
    10,000
    2020
    20,000
    2017
    0
    2016

    SOCIO-ECONOMIC DATA & POLLS

    Gross Domestic Product per Capita (in USD)
    36,284.6
    2020
    43,103.3
    2019
    40,698.85
    2017
    43,962
    2014
    Remittances to the Country (in USD)
    0
    2021
    0
    2020
    Remittances From the Country (in USD)
    0
    2021
    43,000
    2020
    10,060
    2016
    Unemployment Rate
    3
    2021
    5
    2020
    2017
    2014
    Unemployment Rate Amongst Migrants
    2021
    2020
    Net Official Development Assistance (ODA) (in Millions USD)
    1,500,000,000
    2021
    0
    2020
    0
    2016
    Human Development Index Ranking (UNDP)
    26 (Very high)
    2021
    31 (Very high)
    2020
    41 (Very high)
    2015
    Integration Index Score
    2021
    2020
    World Bank Rule of Law Index
    77 (0.8)
    2021
    79 (0.9)
    2020
    78 (0.84)
    2019
    80 (0.89)
    2016
    Domestic Opinion Polls on Immigration
    2021
    2020
    Pew Global Attitudes Poll on Immigration
    2021
    2020

    LEGAL & REGULATORY FRAMEWORK

    Does the Country Detain People for Migration, Asylum, or Citizenship Reasons?
    Yes
    2023
    Yes
    2021
    Does the Country Have Specific Laws that Provide for Migration-Related Detention?
    Yes
    2023
    Yes
    1973
    Detention-Related Legislation
    Federal Law No (13) for 1996 Concerning "Aliens Entry and Residence" Amending some provisions of the Federal Law No (6) for 1973 relating to immigration and residence (2007) 2015
    2007
    Penal Code (Law No. 3 of 1987) (1987) 2018
    1987
    Do Migration Detainees Have Constitutional Guarantees?
    Yes (Constitution of the United Arab Emirates – Constitutional Amendment No. (1) of 1996. Articles 26 and 40.) 1971 1971
    1971
    Additional Legislation
    Federal Law No. 15 of 2017 On Domestic Workers (2018)
    2018
    UAE: Federal Law No. 8 of 1980 Issuing the Labour Law (amended by Law No. 14 in 1999) (1980) 1999
    1980
    Federal Law No (3) of 1987 on Issuance of The Penal Code 1987
    Federal Law on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings No. 51 of 2006. (2006)
    2006
    Regulations, Standards, Guidelines
    Executive regulation of Law No. 6 of 1973 on Entry and Residency of Foreigners (1997)
    1997
    Re-Entry Ban
    Yes
    1973
    Legal Tradition(s)
    Muslim law
    Customary law
    Federal or Centralised Governing System
    Federal system
    2018
    Centralised or Decentralised Immigration Authority
    Centralized immigration authority
    2018

    GROUNDS FOR DETENTION

    Immigration-Status-Related Grounds
    Detention for unauthorised entry or stay
    2018
    Detention of unauthorised persons by executive discretion
    2018
    Detention to prevent unauthorised entry at the border
    2018
    Detention to prevent absconding
    2017
    Non-Immigration-Status-Related Grounds in Immigration Legislation
    Detention on health-related grounds
    2017
    Detention on public order, threats or security grounds
    2017
    Criminal Penalties for Immigration-Related Violations
    Yes (Yes)
    1996
    Yes (Yes)
    1973
    Grounds for Criminal Immigration-Related Incarceration / Maximum Length of Incarceration
    Unauthorized entry (90)
    2018
    Unauthorised stay (120)
    1973
    Has the Country Decriminalised Immigration-Related Violations?
    No
    2021
    No
    2018
    Children & Other Vulnerable Groups
    Accompanied minors (Not mentioned) Yes
    2020
    Mandatory Detention
    Yes (Executive discretion)
    2017
    Yes (All apprehended non-citizens who do not have proper documentation)
    1996

    LENGTH OF DETENTION

    Maximum Length of Administrative Immigration Detention
    Number of Days: 150
    2017
    No Limit
    1996
    Number of Days: 120
    1973
    Maximum Length of Incarceration for Immigration-Related Criminal Conviction
    No Limit
    1973

    DETENTION INSTITUTIONS

    Custodial Authorities
    (Ministry of Interior) Interior or Home Affairs
    2018
    Apprehending Authorities
    Abu Dhabi Police (Police)
    2018
    Dubai Police (Police)
    2018
    Sharjah Police (Police)
    2018
    Detention Facility Management
    N/A (Governmental)
    1973
    N/A (Government-local)
    1973
    Formally Designated Detention Estate?
    No
    1995
    Types of Detention Facilities Used in Practice
    Immigration detention centre (Administrative)
    Offshore detention centre (Administrative)
    Police station (Criminal)
    Local prison (Criminal)
    Informal camp (Ad hoc)
    Immigration detention centre (Ad hoc)
    2021

    PROCEDURAL STANDARDS & SAFEGUARDS

    Procedural Standards
    Right to appeal the lawfulness of detention No
    2022
    Information to detainees (No)
    2021
    Access to consular assistance (No)
    2021
    Independent review of detention (No)
    2021
    Compensation for unlawful detention (No)
    2021
    Right to legal counsel (Yes)
    1992
    Right to appeal the lawfulness of detention (Yes)
    1992
    Complaints mechanism regarding detention conditions (Yes)
    1992
    Duration of Time between Detention Reviews (Day)
    Not applicable
    2021
    Are Non-Custodial Measures/Alternatives to Detention (ATDs) Provided in Law?
    Immigration Law: Yes
    Asylum/Refugee Law: No
    2021
    Does the Law Stipulate Consideration of Non-Custodial Measures (ATDs) before Imposing Detention?
    Immigration Law: No
    Asylum/Refugee Law: No
    2021
    Types of Non-Custodial Measures (ATDs) Provided in Law
    Supervised release and/or reporting (No)
    2021
    Home detention (curfew) (No)
    2021
    Designated regional residence (No)
    2021
    Designated non-secure housing (No)
    2021
    Electronic monitoring (Yes)
    2018
    Release on bail (Yes)
    1992
    Provision of a guarantor (Yes)
    1992
    Registration (deposit of documents) (Yes)
    1992
    Impact of Legal ATDs on Overall Detention Rates
    Unknown
    2021
    Access to Detainees
    Lawyer: Unknown
    Family Members: Unknown
    NGOs: Unknown
    International Monitors: Unknown
    Consular Representatives: Unknown
    2021
    Recouping Detention or Removal Costs
    Unknown
    2021

    COSTS & OUTSOURCING

    Foreign / Non-State Financial Support for Detention Operations
    No
    2018

    COVID-19 DATA

    TRANSPARENCY

    Transparency Score on Migration-Related Detention
    Little or No Transparency
    2021
    Little or No Transparency
    2020
    Publicly Accessible List of Detention Centres?
    No
    2021
    No
    2020
    Publicly Accessible Statistics on Numbers of People Detained?
    No
    2021
    No
    2020
    Disaggregated Detention Data?
    No
    2021
    No
    2020
    Access to Information Legislation?
    Partial
    2021
    No
    2020
    Global Detention Project/Partner Access to Information Requests/Results
    2022 Human Rights Office Pending
    2022
    2022 Ministry of Interior Pending
    2022
    2022 Federal Authority For Government Human Resources Pending
    2022
    2022 Ministry of Human Resources & Emiratisation Pending
    2022
    2022 Statistics Centre of Abu Dhabi Pending
    2022

    MONITORING

    Types of Authorised Detention Monitoring Institutions
    (Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO))
    2021
    Emirates Human Rights Association (Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO))
    2020

    NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS MONITORING BODIES

    National Human Rights Institution (NHRI)
    Yes (National Human Rights Institution) No Unknown Unknown Unknown

    NATIONAL PREVENTIVE MECHANISMS (OPTIONAL PROTOCOL TO UN CONVENTION AGAINST TORTURE)

    National Preventive Mechanism (NPM-OPCAT)
    No No No No
    2020

    NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATIONS (NGOs)

    Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) that Carry Out Detention Monitoring Visits
    Infrequently
    2021
    Infrequently
    2020

    GOVERNMENTAL MONITORING BODIES

    INTERNATIONAL DETENTION MONITORING

    INTERNATIONAL TREATIES & TREATY BODIES

    International Treaties Ratified
    Ratification Year
    Observation Date
    CAT, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
    2012
    2012
    CRPD, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
    2010
    2010
    CTOCTP, Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children
    2009
    2009
    CEDAW, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
    2004
    2004
    CRC, Convention on the Rights of the Child
    1997
    1997
    VCCR, Vienna Convention on Consular Relations
    1977
    1977
    ICERD, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
    1974
    1974
    Ratio of relevant international treaties ratified
    Ratio: 7/19
    Treaty Reservations
    Reservation Year
    Observation Date
    CAT Article 1 2012
    2012
    2012
    CEDAW Article 2 2004
    2004
    2004
    CRC Article 14 1997
    1997
    1997
    Ratio of Complaints Procedures Accepted
    Observation Date
    0/5
    0/5
    Relevant Recommendations or Observations Issued by Treaty Bodies
    Recommendation Year
    Observation Date
    Committee on the Right of Persons with Disabilities 36. The Committee recommends that the State party ensure that: (a) Detention and deportation centres are accessible to migrant workers with disabilities and that migrant workers with disabilities are provided with reasonable accommodation; […] 2016
    2016
    Committee on the Rights of the Child § 63. "The Committee recommends that the State party consider ratifying the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and adopt the necessary legal framework, as well as all the necessary measures in line with the Sharjah Principles, with a view to ensuring that asylum-seeking and refugee children, including Syrian children, fully enjoy their rights under the Convention." 2015
    2015
    Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women 44. The Committee urges the State party: (a) To put an end to the kafalah system, accelerate the adoption of the bill on domestic workers and ensure that women migrant domestic workers are covered by the protection of the Labour Code; (b) To ratify the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189), of the International Labour Organization and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and ensure that the new bill on domestic workers conforms with the provisions of that instrument, in particular the right for women migrant domestic workers to freely change employer; (c) To launch awareness-raising campaigns targeting migrant domestic workers and their employers and ensure that migrant domestic workers are informed of their rights under the new law, of legal remedies and of shelters available, so as to be protected from abusive conditions of work;... (f) To strengthen international cooperation and information exchange with countries of origin. 2015
    2015
    Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 22. The Committee recommends that the State party: (a) Continue its efforts to enact laws to protect foreign workers from exploitative labour practices; .... (d) Guarantee the right to family reunification to foreign workers. 30. Recalling its general recommendation No. 30, especially paragraph 16 on reduction of statelessness, particularly among children, the Committee recommends that the State party revise the directive of 2 December 2011 to allow women to transmit their citizenship to their children from birth, without discrimination. 2017
    2017
    Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 11... The Committee recommends that the State party ensure equality between citizens and non-citizens in the enjoyment of fundamental rights to the extent recognized under international law.... 19. Bearing in mind the indivisibility of all human rights, the Committee encourages the State party to consider ratifying those international human rights treaties which it has not yet ratified, in particular treaties the provisions of which have a direct bearing on the subject of racial discrimination, such as the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (1990). 2009
    2009
    Global Detention Project and Partner Submissions to Treaty Bodies
    Date of Submission
    Observation Date
    2022 https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/united-arab-emirates-submission-to-the-committee-against-torture Migrant-Rights.org Committee against Torture (CAT) 74th Session (July 2022) State Report Pending
    2022
    2022
    2017 https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/submission-to-the-un-committee-on-the-elimination-of-racial-discrimination-cerd-united-arab-emirates Migrant-Rights.org Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) 93rd Session (31 Jul 2017- 25 Aug 2017) Some language on protecting migrants from exploitative labour practices, allowing mothers to transmit citizenship, and right to family reunification. List of Issues Prior to Reporting Partially Key priorities for the United Arab Emirates with regards to immigration detention: To ensure that people are not tortured or mistreated while in detention; To provide public statistics on the practic
    2017

    > UN Special Procedures

    Visits by Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council
    Year of Visit
    Observation Date
    Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance 2009
    2009
    2015
    Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography 2009
    2009
    2015
    Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children 2012
    2012
    2015
    Relevant Recommendations or Observations by UN Special Procedures
    Recommendation Year
    Observation Date
    Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children Ensure that victims [of trafficking] are not criminalized or penalized, including through detention for status-related offences and other crimes directly resulting from their situations as trafficked persons. 2013
    2013
    2013

    > UN Universal Periodic Review

    Relevant Recommendations or Observations from the UN Universal Periodic Review
    Observation Date
    No 2009 1st
    Yes 141.209 Further facilitate consular protection for migrant workers, including by informing the foreign consulate without delay in case of arrest or detention of nationals (Viet Nam); 2018 3rd
    No 2013 2nd
    Global Detention Project and Partner Submissions to Universal Periodic Review
    Date of Submission
    Observation Date
    2017 https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/submission-to-the-universal-periodic-review-upr-united-arab-emirates 3rd Partially Recommendation of consular protection for migrants
    2017

    > Global Compact for Migration (GCM)

    > Global Compact on Refugees (GCR)

    REGIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS MECHANISMS

    Regional Legal Instruments
    Year of Ratification (Treaty) / Transposed (Directive) / Adoption (Regulation)
    Observation Date
    AC, Arab Charter on Human Rights 2008
    2008

    HEALTH CARE PROVISION

    Provision of Healthcare in Detention Centres
    Unknown
    2021
    Medical Screening upon Arrival at Detention Centres (within 48 hours)
    Unknown
    2021
    Psychological Evaluation upon Arrival at Detention Centres
    Unknown
    2021
    Doctor on Duty at Detention Centres
    Unknown
    2021
    Nurse on Duty at Detention Centres
    Unknown
    2021
    Psychologist Visits to Detention Centres
    Unknown
    2021

    HEALTH IMPACTS

    COVID-19

    Country Updates
    In June, the Global Detention Project (GDP) and Migrant-Rights.org issued a joint submission to the Committee against Torture concerning issues related to immigration detention in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The submission highlights prolonged detention periods, poor detention conditions, as well as instances of deportation without recourse to legal remedies. The GDP and Migrant-Rights.org encouraged the Committee to make several recommendations, including: (a) the provision of “public statistics on the practice, scope and conditions of immigration detention, including information about the sites of detention used for migration-related detention purposes as well as annual data on the numbers of people detained for migration-related reasons…”; (b) “ensuring that detention is maintained for the shortest time possible”; (c) “improve conditions of detention, including by eliminating overcrowding in detention sites, ensuring access to medical care, medicines, and hygiene products…”; (d) “ensure that each detention order is regularly and automatically reviewed by a judicial organ”; and (e) “ensure non-discrimination on the basis of race, nationality, ethnic origin, with respect to decisions to detain and deport.” This submission comes as renewed focus has been put on the deportation campaigns waged by numerous Gulf states since international flights resumed in late 2021. The UAE has drawn particular scrutiny. According to Migrant-Rights.org, towards the end of 2021, the UAE deported thousands of undocumented migrant workers withouth providing any judicial review of the procedures. This led to many being forcibly returned despite credible threats of violence in their home countries. Detained migrants alleged that in order to facilitate their deportations, authorities falsified their COVID-19 tests. Many of the deportees said they lost out on unpaid wages as well as their savings. In mid-2021, authorities conducted several raids on apartments housing African migrant workers, rounding up around 800 people, primarily from Uganda, Nigeria, and Cameroon, and placed them in buses without any explanation. Many of these migrant workers reportedly had valid residency status in the country. Authorities claimed the workers were involved with “prostitution networks, human trafficking, indecent acts, extortion, and assault.” One of the migrants told Migrant-Rights.org that he was detained for two months in terrible conditions at the al-Wathba prison. He said that 62 people were held in a single cell, without any hygiene products or new clothes being provided, they were only given dirty tap water, and were forced to compete over a handful of panadol instead of actual medical care. All their personal belongings were confiscated and they were not allowed to contact their families. Cameroon’s consul-general in Dubai said that several requests for information concerning the situation of the detained migrant workers were ignored and that he was not permitted entry into the al-Wathba prison. The government does not release statistics on prison demographics and capacity, and non-governmental organisations are not authorised to visit prisons and report on conditions. In January 2022, the Global Detention Project and Migrant-Rights.org issued a joint information request for the Ministry of the Interior and the Human Rights Office of the Justice Department asking for information about the numbers of people detained and deported for migration-related reasons in recent years, as well as an up-to-date list of facilities used for this purpose. As of this writing however, we have not received any responses to our requests. According to UNHCR data, there were 1,315 refugees and 7,229 asylum seekers in the country in 2020 and in 2021, there were 1,355 refugees and 7,203 asylum seekers. Nonetheless, the country has not yet ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention and has also failed to implement a transparent or codified system for providing protection to asylum seekers or refugees. While the country began a national vaccination campaign in December 2020, offering free COVID-19 vaccinations to all citizens and residents, it remains unclear whether undocumented migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and stateless persons are included in the campaign. Nonetheless, the Indonesian embassy reported that in cooperation with the Government of the UAE, a plan to vaccinate documented and undocumented Indonesian Workers had been agreed in June 2021. The GDP has nonetheless been unable to obtain any further information regarding the country’s vaccination campaign.
    The country’s lockdown measures, including the temporary closure of hotels, have left many migrant workers out of work. Although UAE authorities have allowed repatriation flights to take place, many countries have refused to allow their own nationals to return. Migrant workers in the UAE also have higher numbers of COVID-19 cases, mainly due to their living conditions in labour camps and the impossibility of maintaining social distancing. After demonstrations outside the Pakistani Embassy in Abu Dhabi and Consulate in Dubai, the UAE government released 400 Pakistani prisoners in mid-April. These individuals had been jailed for minor offences and were repatriated on special flights. This measure was taken considering the COVID-19 pandemic. The International Campaign for Freedom in the United Arab Emirates (ICFUAE) subsequently called on UAE authorities to “release all prisoners of conscience immediately and unconditionally, particularly those held beyond their release dates and in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which prisoners remain one of the most vulnerable groups of people to the disease.” Human Rights Watch denounced the poor conditions in UAE prisons on 10 June, calling authorities to reduce prison populations to allow for social distancing. The director general of correctional institutions announced on 24 May the release of some inmates in Dubai’s main prison, in order to reduce the population during the COVID-19 outbreak. He confirmed that since the beginning of the pandemic, there are around 35 per cent fewer prisoners in the prison. Other protests were organized in early May by young migrants, in a labour camp near Abu Dhabi. Many have lost their jobs due to the pandemic and did not receive the payment of their wages.
    Thousands of Ethiopian workers - including large numbers of domestic workers - were deported from the UAE (as well as Saudi Arabia) over the weekend (10-12 April). Deported on cargo planes, some were reported to be displaying symptoms of Covid-19, although none had been tested for the virus. According to the UAE government, they were vulnerable to spreading the disease and thus needed to be removed from the country. Ethiopia’s Health Minister confirmed that thousands had been deported from both UAE and Saudi Arabia, and that the country expected thousands more to be returned in the next 15 days. As the UN Humanitarian co-ordinator for Ethiopia has said, "This is simply not the moment for mass deportations from a public health perspective. … These mass deportations, without any pre-departure medical screening are likely to exacerbate the spread of Covid-19 to the region and beyond."
    UAE authorities provide little information regarding where non-citizens are detained for immigration-related reasons. Some sources indicate that the country has operated at least one dedicated deportation facility, but detainees are also known to have been held in criminal prisons. Authorities announced on 23 March 2020 that all inbound, outbound, and transit flights would be suspended in the next 48 hours. Human Rights Watch called on UAE authorities to consider the conditional release of persons with underlying health conditions – such as HIV – as “Covid-19 … poses a particularly serious risk to people who live in close proximity to each other, such as in prisons, jails, and immigration detention centres.”
    Did the country release immigration detainees as a result of the pandemic?
    Unknown
    2021
    Unknown
    2020
    Did the country use legal "alternatives to detention" as part of pandemic detention releases?
    Yes
    2020
    Did the country Temporarily Cease or Restrict Issuing Detention Orders?
    Yes but have restarted
    2021
    Did the Country Adopt These Pandemic-Related Measures for People in Immigration Detention?
    Unknown (Unknown) Unknown Unknown Unknown
    2021
    Did the Country Lock-Down Previously "Open" Reception Facilities, Shelters, Refugee Camps, or Other Forms of Accommodation for Migrant Workers or Other Non-Citizens?
    Not Applicable
    2021
    Were cases of COVID-19 reported in immigration detention facilities or any other places used for immigration detention purposes?
    Yes
    2020
    Did the Country Cease or Restrict Deportations/Removals During any Period After the Onset of the Pandemic?
    Yes but restrictons ended
    2021
    Did the Country Release People from Criminal Prisons During the Pandemic?
    Yes
    2020
    Did Officials Blame Migrants, Asylum Seekers, or Refugees for the Spread of COVID-19?
    Unknown
    2021
    Yes
    2020
    Did the Country Restrict Access to Asylum Procedures?
    Unknown
    2021
    Did the Country Commence a National Vaccination Campaign?
    Yes
    2021
    Were Populations of Concern Included/Excluded From the National Vaccination Campaign?
    Partially Included (Unknown) Partially Included Unknown Unknown
    2021