United Arab Emirates: UAE national women gather to demand citizenship for their husbands and children

Gulf News
Busloads of UAE national women gathered in Dubai at the weekend, asking the country's human rights organisation to help them regularise the status of their husbands and children who do not have citizenship papers.
About 40 women arrived from Abu Dhabi and the Northern Emirates at the UAE Human Rights Association office.
Among them, about 20 of the women's husbands do not have any citizenship. Others are married to GCC nationals, who waived their former nationalities to unsuccessfully obtain UAE nationality.

"We want the right to make our children and our husbands nationals," said Umm Ebrahim, a mother of six children. "We want equal rights like men who marry and get national status for foreigners."

About 10 women said they were summoned by Naturalisation and Residency Departments in some of the emirates, but not Dubai, last week.

The women said they were asked to sign papers undertaking to get foreign passports for their husbands, who do not have any citizenship, within three months, or the men would face deportation.

"We refused to sign the papers," Umm Mira, a mother of two, said "but we don't know where to find passports for them."

They said in 2001, women married to expatriates and men without citizenship were told they could obtain a five-year temporary passport, which carries no nationality, to help their children access government services.

The passports were now expiring, and the women said officials refused to renew them.

Bleak future

"They told us there's no decision on our status yet," said Umm Khamis, a mother of five. Her Omani husband waived his nationality to obtain UAE citizenship.

Without renewing temporary passports, or citizenship status, their children could not appear for school exams, expected in June, the women said.

Nor could they send their children to public schools or treat them at public hospitals for free, as other nationals do. Some children tried universities in cheaper countries but could not go, because their passports had expired.

"My son sits at home," said Umm Sami, a widower with 12 children. "His passport expired and he was fired from his job. The children have so much resentment. They know they have no opportunities and nobody will accept to marry the men."


Rights organisation to investigate complaints

There is already a thick file on UAE national women married to foreigners and men without citizenship at the UAE Human Rights Association, a source said.

"It's one of the biggest issues here," she said, "and the organisation is only three months old." Aisha Sultan, spokeswoman for the association, said board members expected to meet in two days to discuss the issue.

"We don't have the authority to rule on issues but we will investigate their cases ... and ask the Interior Ministry for a response."

The women were asked to write separate complaint letters.

The women had gathered at the Social Affairs Ministry earlier this year after their social support payments were cut off, on the basis that their husbands were working, regardless of how much they were paid.

Dubai Police Human Rights Department organised payments for most of the women whose husbands earned less than Dh3,000.

By Diaa Hadid, Staff Reporter
Published: 05/08/2006
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