x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Deadline for stateless people to register

Stateless people living in the UAE must register with the Government by Nov 6 or will find they cannot work legally.

ABU DHABI // Stateless people living in the UAE must register with the Government by Nov 6 or will find they cannot work legally, the police warned yesterday. In September the Government announced that the cases of the tens of thousands of people living in the UAE without citizenship would be resolved by a dedicated committee set up to assess eligibility of every stateless person for citizenship.

As part of the moves, everyone without valid citizenship paperwork was required to register with the Government. Yesterday Brig General Nasser al Nuaimi, head of the Interior Minister's office and head of the Citizenship Committee, said: "No excuses will be accepted after Nov 6 from those who have failed to register their claim for citizenship." According to a statement issued by the Abu Dhabi Police, which is overseeing the registration process, anyone who has not registered will no longer be able to be employed at any Government agency or private company, "especially since registration cards are being given out to those who have registered with the committee".

It is unclear whether those who have not registered but are working will lose their jobs or whether from Nov 6 no stateless persons will be hired. The registration process, which began on Sept 7 was mandatory for any stateless person and his or her family residing in the UAE. Those who correctly filled out their applications and met the criteria set by the Ministry of the Interior have been given an appointment to meet the committee.

Each applicant is photographed and issued with a stateless person's registration card which allows them to continue as they were in the UAE until the registration committee makes a decision on whether they will become Emirati citizens. It is unclear what will happen to those whose applications are denied. The police have announced that to date, 51 applications for citizenship have been approved. The Government says there are 10,000 stateless people in the UAE, although the human rights group Refugees International believes the real figure could be much higher. Without documentation or nationality, their rights and their ability to travel, get jobs and access benefits are restricted.

Many arrived in the UAE from other countries before it was federated. They remained in the country but have never had the same benefits as Emirati nationals. They were unable to travel outside the UAE, and many have problems finding employment, registering children in higher education or buying property. ealghalib@thenational.ae