Rise to Peace blog

Guests in the Gulf: Afghans in the UAE

As part of an ongoing series from Rise to Peace, this article hopes to bring continued attention to the Afghan refugees’ conditions within their new places of residence. As they have made their way far from their homes in Afghanistan, they have braved treks across water, mountains, and militarized borders for a better life.

The states in which Afghans have made this journey cover vast distances, ranging from the mountainous terrain of Iran to the Alps of the French-Italian border. However, this article will delve into the lives of Afghan refugees inside the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Lives in Limbo

With the migration of Afghans across the region, a situation has arisen where nations are scrambling to provide the bureaucratic and humanitarian support to address this influx. Many migrants came with what they could carry and left where they had spent decades of their lives for safety.

Several thousand migrants from Afghanistan have sought refuge within the UAE in order to seek entry into other countries such as the United States. In response, the UAE has housed them within Emirates Humanitarian City as they await further response as to what their future will be.

Per Rise to Peace’s previous report, the conditions within the Emirates Humanitarian City were less than adequate for the safety of the migrants. While the migrants were among the lucky few to escape out of the country when the country fell to the Taliban in August of 2021, they still face a long road ahead towards finding a new home.

One of the largest impediments for Afghan refugees has been the lack of resources to process the necessary paperwork for the next stage in the asylum-seeking process. For some families, the case for being taken to the United States is stronger than others since they have family members who were interpreters for the United States. Those who do not have such a connection to the United States have had a more difficult time getting their cases processed.

For the migrants located within the UAE, the prospect of being forced to return to Afghanistan is one they cannot afford, due to the dire conditions brought on by the Taliban. A critical threat that befalls Afghan migrants facing deportation is a humanitarian disaster that has put millions of Afghans at risk of hunger. Furthermore, Afghan migrants would also face repression by the Taliban, which has prevented journalists from covering protests surrounding the Taliban targeting ex-soldiers who served Ashraf Ghani’s government.

What Policymakers Can Do

When taking in the dire situation the Afghan migrants face, it is clear that action must be taken to alleviate their plight. For those with the strongest case for being processed to the United States, the U.S. government must provide the necessary resources and personnel to help expedite the necessary paperwork needed to obtain asylum. They must also collaborate with the UAE to extend the same protections to the families of Afghan migrants of the UAE who are still in Afghanistan.

For those Afghan refugees without a strong application for entry into the United States, the U.S. must coordinate with the United Kingdom to identify individuals for the newly minted Afghan refugee resettlement scheme, which is set to launch this month.

The Home Office of the United Kingdom announced that they would provide resources to help start the new lives of Afghans within their new home by providing tools such as language education and healthcare. This new scheme presents a model for other nations to follow throughout Europe.

Should the U.K.’s scheme continue to go ignored by the rest of the EU, migrants will be preyed upon by criminal trafficking organizations. This situation played out dangerously before during the last migration crisis the EU encountered. These policies have proved to be disastrous for migrants as several thousand have been lost within the Mediterranean. One nation alone cannot face the logistical challenges presented by Afghan resettlement efforts but must be overcome through a coalition of governments and NGOs.


Christopher Ynclan Jr., Counter-Terrorism Research Fellow

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