‘Refusing entry to a human rights advocate who was invited to speak in a conference is just absurd’ - Said Boumedouha
The United Arab Emirates’ refusal to allow an Amnesty International expert to enter the country to speak at a conference is the latest in a series of incidents in which the Gulf state has sought to tighten its stranglehold on freedom of expression, said Amnesty.
James Lynch, Amnesty’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.
Mr Lynch had been invited to today’s Middle East Economic Digest Construction Leadership Summit 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.
The Dubai airport authorities 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”.
James Lynch, who is now back in London, said:
“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.”
This is not the first time an international human rights organisation has been prevented from entering the country. The UAE denied entry to experts from Human Rights Watch in January 2014 and in March 2013 it denied entry to an Amnesty observer and other international experts who wanted to attend a trial session that the government had insisted was “open”. Meanwhile, this March Professor Andrew Ross from New York University was also denied entry - he had been working on labour rights issues around the NYU campus in Abu Dhabi.
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Said Boumedouha said:
“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.
“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.”