x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

The UAE becomes a better refuge

With a new GCC representative to the UNHCR, the UAE and its neighbours have strengthened their capacity to assist asylum seekers from the Middle East and beyond.

They cross borders escaping from conflict and persecution, seeking a better life for themselves and their families. But until recently, those under the care of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) often turned to other countries outside of the Gulf for help. That is about to change. With a new GCC representative to the UNHCR, the UAE and its neighbours have strengthened their capacity to assist asylum seekers from the Middle East and beyond. As we report today, over 200 such applicants, most of whom are from Iraq and Afghanistan, are currently awaiting relocation to a third country. Meanwhile, they are being housed in the UAE through a joint initiative between the Government and UNHCR.
Countries such as the UAE are an attractive haven for those fleeing conflict-ridden zones because of the stability they provide. As most applicants must wait over 18 months to be processed through UNHCR's protocol, it is important to afford them a semblance of calm and normality, particularly after they have fled the chaos of home. The UN programme ensures that they wait in a country where applicants can access housing, work and health care with relative ease.
But the UAE has also recognised that post-conflict aid is more than just a temporary issue. It must also be delivered to those who are still living with political turmoil and under the threat of violence. The UAE's track record of delivering humanitarian assistance in places such as Yemen, Pakistan and Gaza speaks to its growing role in promoting regional stability. The Red Crescent in the UAE is particularly known for its long-standing commitment to crises in the region, having been an integral force last summer during the initial stages of Yemen's conflicts, when it built refuges for over 7,000 people in the north. It also provided immediate aid to families in Gaza during last January's onslaught. The Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan Foundation has also proved itself as an integral source of support throughout its two decades of operation. Notably, it assisted over 25,000 families who fled Pakistan's Swat Valley when fierce fighting broke out last year, providing temporary shelter and funding for clean water, food and health care upon their return home.
As the country comes into its own as an international force, such efforts are a sign of its maturity. We hope the need for the UAE's help may diminish with time, but that its presence in such challenges continues to shine through.