The United Arab Emirates has ordered some Lebanese to leave the country in the latest wave of deportations from the oil-rich state, Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry and a former deportee said Friday.
The ministry said in a statement that Lebanese Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil called his Emirati counterpart to ask about the issue.
“The Lebanese in the Emirates fully merge into the Emirati society and abide by its laws. They are a good factor in this dear country,” the statement said.
Hundreds of Lebanese, mostly Shiite Muslims, have been quietly deported from the UAE since 2009. Deportations of Shiites from oil-rich Gulf states rose in 2013 after the Shiite militant Hezbollah group joined Syrian government forces in Syria’s civil war.
Shiite-Sunni tensions have been on the rise in the Middle East with increasing sectarian violence in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Gulf states are also worried about the rise of Shiite Iran’s influence throughout the Arab world.
Hassan Alayan, a former deportee and now head of a committee helping Lebanese deported from the UAE, told The Associated Press that 70 people, mostly Shiites, are to be deported. The report quoted unnamed UAE officials as saying that as many as 120 Lebanese individuals would be expelled within the next few weeks.
Alayan called on the Lebanese government to defend its citizens in the UAE. He added that “it is a mistake for a state in the 21st century to adopt a policy of revenge on a sectarian or political basis. This is dangerous and unacceptable.”
Deported Lebanese have said in the past that they were ordered to leave the UAE for “security reasons.” Some deported Lebanese have said that the UAE’s Sunni rulers associate members of the sect with Hezbollah.