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200 Gaza residents denied re-entry to UAE

May 24, 2010 2:34 P.M. (Updated: May 26, 2010 3:50 P.M.)
Gaza – Ma'an – Two hundred Gaza residents were denied re-entry into the UAE and are presently stranded on Kish Island in the Persian Gulf, they told Ma'an on Monday.

"We endure complicated and disastrous living conditions as most the young people can't afford to pay for hotel fees or food," said Hammouda Abu Rida, a Gaza resident currently stranded on the Iranian island.

He and 200 Gaza residents are seeking permanent residency status in the UAE, but were denied entry upon arrival, despite many of them holding contracts with UAE firms.

Those currently stranded were told to leave the UAE by their employers and would be issued with a permanent residency visa upon their arrival, due to their official work status.

Abu Ridah, who studied Information Technology in Egypt, said it was difficult for him to obtain a visa to the UAE. He eventually obtained a tourist visa after being contracted to work for an international company in the Emirates and was also advised to leave to renew his status.

"Given the siege imposed on Gaza, I couldn't go home or to Egypt, so I decided to travel to the nearby Kish Island for a few days and then go back."

Upon his arrival, he said, the UAE had informed the Dutch company he works for that he could not re-enter "for security reasons."

The majority of those stranded on the island had not prepared for an extended stay and can no longer afford the hotel fees or purchase food, Abu Ridah said. "Many young people leave the hotel early in the morning, returning at night ... to avoid confrontation with the hotel management who became worried after they learned that we are denied entry to the UAE for security reasons."

One of the Gaza residents denied re-entry into the UAE, who introduced himself as Mohammad, said, "We barely managed to leave Gaza because of the siege to seek better opportunities for us and our families," adding that their movement has been restricted by Iranian authorities.

"Most of us have become indebted to the hotel owners because we can't afford the fees."

Though many displaced Palestinians from the 1948 and 1967 wars live across the Middle East, various governments have restricted their access to civil, economic and residency rights. In the UAE, a Palestinian cannot own property and, like other foreign nationals residing in the Emirates, have limited access to government schools and healthcare.

In Lebanon, UNRWA registered Palestinian refugees are barred from working in over 70 professions.

The stranded have appealed to President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to intervene and secure their return, with others complaining that the Palestinian Embassy in the UAE had failed to assist them, describing embassy officials of employing a "nonfeasance" policy toward their case.

"Are they waiting until the hotel owners take us hostage," Muhammad said.

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