One week ago, ten Lebanese families living in Abu Dhabi received warnings that they would have to leave the country within days. President Michel Suleiman is scheduled to visit the United Arab Emirates today [June 6, 2012] to discuss ongoing deportation of Lebanese from the UAE with officials there. They are also set to discuss barring UAE nationals from traveling to Lebanon.
These sudden deportation warnings are shocking hundreds of Lebanese families. To their surprise, they receive the warnings of imminent deportation immediately upon applying to renew their residence permit or their passport. Many get ten days to leave the country, and some get no more than 24 hours, an insufficient amount of time to gather up necessary paperwork and sell off property. Therefore, the Lebanese shut down their businesses in a rush and find themselves forced to hire someone to sell their property at low prices, thus losing what they had been saving for years.
The absence of a Lebanese ambassador in the UAE, due to the delay in the diplomatic appointments within the Lebanese government, is weakening the position of the Lebanese living there. Farah Al-Khatib, the acting chargé d'affaires of the Lebanese embassy in the UAE, a third-ranking diplomat, has been tasked with contacting relevant individuals. However, she is not entitled to interview senior officials due to not having ambassadorial status.
One political official living abroad told As-Safir, "If there are complaints against the Lebanese, then they should be given a trial, but it is unacceptable that they be deported groundlessly." He also pointed out that there are "friendly relations between the peoples of Lebanon and the UAE." He recalled the initiatives taken by Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan toward Lebanon, such as the aid offered by the UAE army in de-mining operations in the south of Lebanon.
The official said that "Lebanese, both in Lebanon and expatriates, are attaching great importance to Suleiman’s visit to Abu Dhabi. They are hoping it will stop the deportations, allow investigations into the cases of all those who have been deported and perhaps allow them to return and retrieve their properties."
The official hoped "not to mix the situation of those making a living in the UAE with politics, especially considering that the Lebanese community has contributed to the reconstruction and development of the UAE. The Lebanese went there to make a decent living."
It should be noted that the issue of Lebanese being deported from the UAE started back in 2009, when authorities in Abu Dhabi deported Lebanese Shiites, Palestinians and Jordanians. The number of deported Lebanese stood at 38 that year, and the list of deportees included engineers, businessmen and merchants — all from the south of Lebanon and the Bekaa. Some had been living in the UAE for more than 30 years. Word that new deportations were imminent led Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri to visit Abu Dhabi and meet with senior UAE officials. This led to a freeze in deportations until the end of 2011.
Nevertheless, 2011 once again witnessed frequent deportations of Lebanese, and some villages saw an unusually high level of expatriates returning home. Two hundred fifty people from the Bekaa town of Yohmor alone were deported with their families within three years, most of whom were operating restaurants and bakeries in the UAE.
According to relevant sources, the deportations are only occurring in Abu Dhabi. Some have attributed this to that city overflowing with intelligence agencies.
The official said, "Unfortunately, the deportations are carried out arbitrarily for no apparent reason, and deported people are not given enough time to finish up their paperwork. We hope that the visit of the president of the Republic will bring positive results, as happened in 2010 following the visit of Speaker Nabih Berri."