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Indian nationals risk arbitrary detention, Interpol abuse in UAE

Indian citizens are more likely to be imprisoned in the UAE than in any other country in the world.

Indian citizens are more likely to be imprisoned in the UAE than in any other country in the world. “There are over 8,000 Indian nationals incarcerated in foreign jails,” says Radha Stirling, CEO of Due Process International and founder of Detained in Dubai, “Roughly half of them are imprisoned in Gulf countries, with the highest number being in the UAE.

Indians constitute roughly one-third of the Emirates’ total population, but Stirling says the alarming incarceration rate is not explained merely by demographic representation; but that the UAE justice system is fundamentally biased, and citizens of India are particularly vulnerable to false arrest. “There are approximately the same number of Indian nationals living in the United States, yet there are fewer than 300 Indian prisoners; and that in a country with the highest overall incarceration rate on earth. There are 2.5 million Indian citizens in a country like Malaysia, many of whom come from the same socioeconomic strata as those who migrate to the UAE, but Malaysia only has around 400 Indian prisoners. There are even fewer Indian citizens jailed in Pakistan than in the Emirates. There is clearly a systemic problem in the UAE criminal justice system that disproportionately targets citizens from the sub-continent.

“As political and economic ties between India and the UAE have grown over the past decade, so has the frequency of false arrests, arbitrary detentions, deportations, and Interpol abuse against Indian nationals by the UAE”, Stirling explains, “While one would normally expect better relations to be accompanied by greater respect, the opposite has occurred. We are not only talking about blue-collar labourers being targeted by the police – workers with no real rights or protections – as we used to see 15 or 20 years ago; today, it is just as common for high level Indian investors and professionals to be wrongfully prosecuted and hounded by abusive Interpol Red Notices over financial or contractual disputes.

“The pattern we have noted over our 15 years in the field, is that the UAE tends to see its relative economic and political usefulness to its allies as a licence to mistreat its allies’ citizens. The more the UAE becomes vital as a trading or strategic partner to a country, the more that country’s people are at risk in the Emirates. This has been the case for the United Kingdom, for the US, and it is increasingly true for India.”