The United Arab Emirate has arrested and detained, without prosecution, many Nigerians in a series of sting operations targeted at irregular migrants.
According to Vanguard, security operatives raided the homes of many African migrants, most of whom are Nigerians living in Al Qouz, Abu Hail, Sharjah, Al Barsha, Deira and other places.
One of the Nigerian citizens, who was arrested, said, “It happened in the early morning like 2am-5am, some masked individuals who are called CID burst into African accommodations and arrested all of them. They were taken straight to jail without any charges or trials. Several attempts to connect to the Nigerian Embassy and Consulate as usual failed.”
According to another victim, about 80 per cent of the persons arrested are legal residents while the remaining 20 are those with either visit visas or visa-related issues.
“But our paramount concern now is that there is apprehension in the African communities. No reasons were given for the arrests. Our rights have been taken away. We have more than 400 black inmates. About 70 per cent of those arrested are Nigerians,” he said.
When contacted, the Chairperson of Nigerians In Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said the affected persons would have to liaise with the mission in UAE for more information.
“Pre-COVID-19, UAE issued a deadline for all those with illegal residency to leave their country. Many had gone with tourist visas but stayed back to work. They made it clear that they would have a zero tolerance for illegal residents and issued several warnings.
“Due to COVID-19, the deadline was extended. The Nigerian mission then asked Nigerians there who were illegal residents to register at the mission so flight arrangements could be made as the UAE authorities offered to provide free flights.
“As you know, almost about seven free flights were made available to Nigerians stranded there who registered to return home. Unfortunately, some still opted to stay back despite their illegal residency status despite the fact that UAE had issued several warnings and given deadlines to illegal residents to leave or face their law,” Dabiri-Erewa said.
She advised that families of anyone with proof of legal residency status should go to the mission and report. “Any one with proper documentation (with proof) will definitely be released,” she added.
When contacted, one other victim of the arrest in UAE, corroborated the government’s explanation but explained that some stayed back because their travel documents were withheld by their employers.
He said, “First, the news relating to visa violators is right. The free flight for a scheduled time is also true but circumstances held many who did not go home then.
“Most companies had their passports and their visas were being processed when COVID-19 came and after the lockdown, the UAE government stopped issuing Nigerians visas for four months.
“Recently, in November they resumed the visa issuance and by the following month, which was December, they asked everyone without visa or with fine to leave while some companies had promised to make visa available. Knowing the country we came from and the hard environment, nobody wants to return home after selling all they had to travel.
“This is very frustrating. Then if that is the case, why only Africans? There are hundreds and thousands of other nationalities without visas and have huge fines. They have not arrested those ones. Why only Africans?”