Palestinian officials say many Palestinians from the Gaza Strip have been forced to leave the United Arab Emirates in recent months, but there were conflicting reports on whether the reason for the exodus was political. Hussam Ahmed, head of the Refugee Affairs Department in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Islamist group Hamas, said hundreds of Palestinians had been dismissed from their jobs for purported security reasons.

 

In separate reports, some Lebanese residents in the UAE, some of whom own businesses have lived there for over ten years, have reportedly been asked to leave on “security grounds”. Most of the Lebanese asked to leave are Shiite.

 

The Iranian government also accused the UAE government of imposing severe restrictions against Iranian expatriates in the UAE.

 

The UAE Nationality and Residency Department in Dubai and Interior Ministry in Abu Dhabi both denied any of the claims.

 

Analysis and forecast: increasing risk

 

Although the number of alleged expellees is relatively small (tens to low hundreds), it is unusual in nature. Reports from the Iranian, Lebanese and Palestinian communities about alleged expulsions are almost simultaneous, indicating that it is part of a concerted UAE policy towards the non-local Shiite and Iranian-backed community in the UAE.

 

There are over 100,000 Palestinians living in the UAE, and news of the expulsions has been particularly received amongst the Palestinian community with unease, as most of the Palestinians in the UAE are unable to live in other countries.

 

With no explanations coming from the UAE government, it is difficult to explain the reason for the expulsions. Possible reasons for the expulsions are either aimed at pressuring the governments of those expelled or, more seriously, due to a perceived threat against the UAE. In any case, the expulsions may reflect an underlying security concern.