Activist for UAE stateless faces police watch in Thailand-Bangkok Post

July 21, 2012

HUMAN RIGHTS

UAE activist expelled to Thailand faces close watch

Nutthathirataa Withitwinyuchon & Ezra Kyrill Erker

Bangkok Post: July 18, 2012

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/302978/uae-activist-expelled-to-thailand-faces-close-watch

Authorities will keep a close watch on a prominent human rights activist whose expulsion from the United Arab Emirates to Thailand yesterday has attracted international criticism.

Foreign Ministry deputy spokesman Sek Wannamethee said the ministry was aware that Abd al-Khaleq, 35, had left Dubai and arrived in Thailand on a 60-day tourist visa.

“To my understanding, the Thai embassy in the UAE never contacted the Foreign Ministry [regarding the case]. The ministry noticed that the man is considered as a threat to the UAE’s internal security,” Mr Sek said, adding the case will not affect Thai-UAE ties.

Mr Sek said the ministry had yet to contact human rights organisations involved in the case but would closely monitor Mr Khaleq to ensure he does not overstay his visa.

His expulsion has been criticised by both human rights activists and his family for its unusual circumstances.

He belongs to the stateless Bidun (meaning “without”) minority who are denied passports, making it impossible for them to leave the UAE.

Mr Khaleq ran a blog, Emaraty Bedoon, that highlights the plight of stateless residents.

He is one of the UAE 5, a group of activists who spent eight months in jail last year before being pardoned. He was arrested again and had been detained since May 22.

He was told he would be deported to Pakistan, Iran, India, Bangladesh or Thailand, and he chose the latter, even though the kingdom is not a signatory to the UN conventions on refugees or stateless people.

Mr Khaleq, whose name is also spelled Ahmed Abdul Khaleq, entered Thailand on a passport for the Comoros Islands, a country he has never visited or has any association with.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, considers it a tactic to silence dissenting voices.

“UAE authorities are trying to make it appear as though Abd al-Khaleq is choosing to leave the country of his own volition, but this is a cruel and unlawful expulsion by duress, plain and simple,” she said.

According to Human Rights Watch, Mr Khaleq’s father was asked by prison officials to buy a plane ticket and apply for a Thai tourist visa for his son.

Asked what the Thai government would do if the man overstays, Mr Sek said the ministry would work with the Immigration Office to have him expelled to the Comoros Islands.

An official at the ministry’s visa and travel documents division confirmed that the division has never been contacted by the Thai embassy in the UAE.

Normal procedure for Thai embassies in uncertain visa cases would be to contact the ministry and the division.

Samer Muscati, a researcher at Human Rights Watch who has followed the issue and met Mr Khaleq recently, said: “We haven’t seen any statements from Thailand or the UAE about this case, so I don’t know what type of arrangement there is between the two countries.

“He’s never left the country before and it’s overwhelming for him, especially given that he’s spent the last two months in prison.

“I think he’ll always advocate for the human rights of stateless persons in the UAE _ he is a determined activist who has sacrificed so much already. If the UAE authorities hoped to silence him by expelling him, I think they will be disappointed.”

Before boarding his flight, Mr Khaleq told The Independent: “They are afraid because I’m speaking up for my rights and many people like me don’t have a nationality. If I have committed a crime, then take me to court, but to have to leave my home, this is not fair.”

Refugees International says 10,000 to 100,000 Bidun live in the UAE, many in poverty.

 

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