x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Citizen status rests on loyalty

New citizens should show loyalty and embrace traditional values or risk having their citizenship revoked says Sheikh Saif.

New citizens of the country should show loyalty and embrace traditional values or risk having their citizenship revoked, Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, the Minister of Interior, was quoted as saying. He made the remarks at a time when the Government is seeking to resolve the status of an estimated 100,000 stateless people in the country and is asking them to come forward and register with the authorities.

The Ministry of Interior announced yesterday that once the period of registration was complete it would begin an aggressive search for those without documents. They will send teams of trained men and women to carry out inspectional raids at "every nook and corner of the country", according to the state news agency WAM. There will be no laxity for those found to be violating the laws of immigration and residency, it said.

Sheikh Saif told the Arabic daily Emarat Al Youm: "Loyalty is a condition of citizenship and new citizens are expected to embrace the values that have ensured social stability and security for all. The Constitution allows for revoking citizenship from anyone who does not deserve it." The Government has been receiving citizenship applications since Sept 7 from stateless people living in the country.

Sheikh Saif said his ministry's efforts to resolve the issue of stateless people was intended to "protect society from the problems associated with illegal residency". He said many stateless people "have demonstrated that they are well-intentioned and deserving of becoming citizens". He told the newspaper that Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, the President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, had ordered that stateless people who could prove their presence in the country before the creation of the UAE in 1971 were entitled to become citizens, providing they were completely transparent about their previous citizenships.

They must also have shown their worthiness to become citizens by not having committed any crime or acted in a way that could be considered a threat to social stability and security. "The order of the President to solve the issue of stateless people comes from a wish to maintain stability and security in the country by eliminating illegal immigration and by resolving the issue of stateless people once and for all," Sheikh Saif said.

At present stateless people are not allowed to travel outside the country or register their children in college. There are restrictions on the property they are allowed to own and the jobs they can take. Mohammed Abduallah Khalaf, a 27-year-old stateless person, said he would go to Mecca to perform Umra [minor pilgrimage] and pray for the soul of the late Sheikh Zayed, the founder of the nation, if he was accepted as a citizen.

Asked about Sheikh Saif's comments on the revocation of citizenship, he said: "Those who drink from a well would never throw dirt in it." Mr Khalaf has joined the armed forces and hopes that is sufficient proof of his commitment to the country. "I carry the country's emblem on my head and my love for it in my heart," he says. A committee overseeing the process will meet after the completion of registrations in mid-November to decide on the next steps in the plan.

ealghalib@thenational.ae rghazal@thenational.ae