UN Special Rapporteur on racism / xenophobia concludes visit to the United Arab Emirates

ABU DHABI -- “The United Arab Emirates is a unique country, where non-nationals constitute the vast majority of the population and where nationals represent a minority in their own country,” noted the United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Mr. Githu Muigai, at the end of his mission to the United Arab Emirates.

“The influx of foreigners which has been supported by the Government to satisfy the demands of a fast-growing economy has contributed to the building of the country in a positive manner,” emphasized the UN expert, “yet it has created tremendous challenges for the Emirati society in terms of national identity, social integration and capacity of absorption”.

During his five-day mission, the Special Rapporteur raised various issues of concern relating to the policy on the granting of citizenship, the working and living conditions of construction and domestic workers, the situation of “Bidoons” or stateless persons, the victims of human trafficking, as well as the Emirati public education system which seems to be hampering integration of foreigners in the society.

The UN human rights expert also stressed the need for a robust and solid institutional and legal framework to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

Mr. Muigai appreciated that the Government had recognised the need to address these issues and had taken steps accordingly. He encouraged the Government to continue treating these issues as a matter of priority in order to eradicate discrimination on the grounds of national or ethnic origin preventing individuals to enjoy just and favourable conditions of work, equal pay for equal work, as well as equality before the law.

As the first United Nations Special Rapporteur invited to visit the United Arab Emirates, Mr. Muigai expressed his sincere appreciation at the cooperation and openness demonstrated by the Government of the United Arab Emirates during his mission from 4 to 8 October 2009. The Special Rapporteur emphasized that his country report to the Human Rights Council will be drafted in the spirit of contributing towards the reforms already undertaken by the Government.

Mr. Githu Muigai, a Kenyan national, commenced his mandate as Special Rapporteur on 1 August 2008 after being appointed by the Human Rights Council. He is a lawyer specialized in international human rights law. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on racism was established in 1993 by the Commission on Human Rights to examine incidents of contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, as well as governmental measures to overcome them. It was further extended by the Human Rights Council in its resolutions 5/1 and 7/34.

The full text of the press statement of the Special Rapporteur is available online at: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/racism/rapporteur/index.htm