“The conditions of any prison obviously create an elevated risk of rapid spread of a virus like Covid19,” Radha Stirling, head of Detained in Dubai and Due Process International said today, “Every detention facility is going to be basically quite similar, but even more dangerous than the example of the Diamond Princess cruise ship in terms of having a large group of people locked in with the infection. The jails in the UAE, from those in police stations to the central prisons, are notoriously overcrowded, with dozens of people packed into rooms, sleeping on the floor, sharing a single toilet, insufficient access to basic necessities of hygiene such as soap and clean water. It is not a question of “if” the virus will spread to every inmate, it is a question of “how soon”.
“We have already been contacted by multiple families whose loved ones are in detention and they have reported that Covid19 has already appeared in the prison population. One family member has told us that their relative is assigned to a cell where at least one person has already tested positive for the virus, but has not been quarantined.”
“We are not only not talking about violent or dangerous offenders, we are talking about expats who have been convicted for simple bounced cheques or other financial disputes that are not categorised in their home countries as criminal offences, and very often, we are talking about people who are completely innocent of any wrongdoing who have been falsely accused and wrongfully convicted. The fear, of course, is that their continued incarceration in the UAE will ultimately become a death sentence because of exposure to the Coronavirus and the denial of adequate medical treatment.”
Stirling has been urging the UAE government to release and repatriate all expat inmates from the country on humanitarian grounds, calling upon officials in the Emirates and authorities from the UK, US, Canada, Australia, and Europe to request the return of foreign inmates to their home countries, including those currently on bail and under travel bans.
“This is an urgent issue which grows more intense literally by the hour. The overwhelming majority of expat being detained in the UAE are not criminally guilty, and many are wholly innocent, but every moment they remain in incarceration puts their lives at risk. We ask the UAE government to grant amnesty across the board for all these foreign nationals and expedite their return home immediately."
Radha Stirling founded Detained in Dubai in 2008 and has since helped and advised more than 15,000 foreign nationals facing trouble in the UAE. Stirling is an expert witness, civil and criminal justice specialist, legislative, investment risk, business and policy advisor to the public and private sectors, founder of IPEX Reform, speaker and host of the Gulf in Justice Podcast, covering the region in depth.