View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Friday, October 12, 2007

‘Would You Like to Live in Fujairah?’ The UAE and Refugee Resettlement

It’s not often that Fujairah is mentioned in the major American newspapers but recently the eastern city in the UAE appeared in a poignant story about an Iraqi family.

The story, reported in the LA Times, concerns a man and his wife who are both pharmacists and their ten year old daughter. They thought they could make a go of life in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein but it has proved to be miserable and unsafe.

They came to the UAE on a tourist visa, undertook the tests and when they returned they heard that they had passed with flying colours. The man applied for another tourist visa and returned to check out some jobs. ‘Would you like to live in Fujairah?’ said a doctor in relation to a job opening. He’d never heard of Fujairah but when he came he loved the size of the city, the freedom and the beaches. The dream unfortunately came to a sad end when their work visa was not granted.

It is difficult to make an assessment without the full facts of this particular case. However, it makes one ask about whether the UAE can do more in the area of refugee resettlement.

The UAE has stated recently in international spheres that human rights are a national priority (see Dr Anwar Mohammed Gargash’ speech, 29 September 2007). Furthermore the UAE has pledged Dh 100 million to the reconstruction of the Jenin Refugee Camp for Palestinian refugees (6 October 2007), has generously assisted refugees in the Ambara Refugee Camp in Mauritania (6 October 2007), given Dh 5 million to refugee relief in Afghanistan and has contributed huge amounts for digging water wells for Darfur refugees.

The UAE has been extremely generous in donating money for refugee projects in different parts of the world. However, one of the real challenges is to look at what more the UAE might do in throwing open its doors and in offering a welcome to the stranger and citizenship to the stateless and exiles.

Such a response is in line with the Islamic concept of zakat—the giving to the poor and the destitute. Granting hospitality is legendary in the Bedouin and Arabic tradition and must be revived if the UAE takes a significant role not only in refugee relief but in refugee resettlement.

The full story of the Iraqi family can be read (after a free sign in) at:
Staff Reporter (anonymous for security reasons), ‘After Leaving Iraq, a Bitter Return Home’, LA Times, 7 October, 2007.

Image: Two worlds—Abu Dhabi and Baghdad (image courtesy of LA Times article)