Palestinians, Lebanese Shi'ites forced to leave UAE
A number of Palestinians and Lebanese Shi'ites have been forced to leave the United Arab Emirates in recent months, Palestinian and Lebanese officials said on Friday.
Hussam Ahmed, head of the Refugee Affairs Department in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the Islamist group Hamas, said hundreds of Palestinians had been dismissed from their jobs in the UAE for security reasons.
"(This is) an operation of mass displacement of Palestinians in the UAE, especially those of Gaza origins, without known reasons other than security pretexts," he said in a statement issued in Gaza on Thursday, citing the UAE town of al-Ain.
He said many did not have passports, and Arab states would not accept them with the travel documents they had.
In Beirut, a senior Lebanese political source said 45 Lebanese Shi'ites living in the UAE had either not been granted re-entry or had been asked to leave. No reason was given for the decisions.
"Some of them had been living in the country for 20 years. They were doctors and business owners," the source told Reuters.
He said Lebanese President Michel Suleiman had sent an envoy in the past week to meet with UAE officials on the issue.
Khairy al-Aridi, Palestinian ambassador to the UAE, was quoted by the Ramallah-based official Palestinian news agency Wafa on Thursday as denying that there had been a deliberate policy of expulsion.
But he said Palestinians and other foreigners had lost jobs as teachers through the UAE government putting UAE citizens in professional posts occupied by expatriates.
"The charitable policy of the UAE towards Palestinians has not changed," he said in comments that were carried on the front page of UAE Arabic newspapers on Friday. Aridi did not say how many Palestinians had left the UAE or where they had gone.
In phone calls to the UAE Nationality and Residency Department in Dubai, officials denied Palestinians had been asked to leave. An Interior Ministry spokesman in Abu Dhabi said he was not aware of the matter.
Western-allied Arab governments including the UAE blamed Hamas for a three-week Israeli war in December and January on Gaza, an enclave of 1.5 million Palestinians under blockade.
The war created tension between the U.S.-allied Arab states and opposition groups supported by Iran, including Hamas and the Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah.
Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas government head in Gaza, has said he is seeking clarification from the UAE. "I have received official reports from there and I have urged some Palestinian leaders outside to intervene," he told reporters in Gaza on Wednesday.