The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) refusal to allow an Amnesty International expert to enter the country last night to speak at a conference is the latest in a shocking series of incidents highlighting the government’s desire to silence dissenting views and tighten its stranglehold on freedom of expression, said Amnesty International.
James Lynch, the organization’s Acting Head of Business and Human Rights, arrived in Dubai airport last night only to be refused entry and forced to book a return flight to the UK early this morning. He had been invited to today’s Middle East Economic Digest Construction Leadership Summit (MEED) in Dubai, to speak about the responsibility of corporations to ensure migrant workers’ rights are protected in the massive construction boom across the Gulf region.
Authorities in Dubai airport gave no justification for their actions, but Lynch said one of the officials held a deportation order which included the Arabic text: “Prevented from entering the country for reasons of security”.
"By preventing human rights groups from engaging the region's business leaders on migrant workers' rights, the UAE authorities are simply continuing to brush this urgent issue under the carpet in the hope nobody will notice. But this ‘hear no evil’ approach is doomed to fail. If the UAE won't allow dialogue on labour rights, they will continue to be exposed when workers are abused,” said James Lynch, who is now back in London.
This is not the first time an international human rights organization has been prevented from entering the country. The UAE denied entry to experts from Human Rights Watch in January 2014. In March 2013 the government denied entry to an Amnesty International trial observer and other international experts who wanted to attend a trial session that the government insisted was “open”. In March 2015, Professor Andrew Ross from New York University (NYU) was also denied entry. He was working on labour rights issues around the NYU campus in Abu Dhabi.
“Refusing entry to a human rights advocate who was invited to speak in a conference is just absurd. The government claims to cooperate with international human rights bodies but its double-speak has been stripped bare. The UAE authorities seem to be willing to stop at nothing to prevent people from speaking up about human rights,” said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.“What is the UAE so desperately trying to hide? This shocking move will only further damage the country’s reputation, one they are so keen to protect.”