Inside the women’s detention centre at Al Mafraq prison, Abu Dhabi, where the welfare of the inmates’ children is paramount: they even have their own nannies. Silvia Razgova / The National
Inside the women’s detention centre at Al Mafraq prison, Abu Dhabi, where the welfare of the inmates’ children is paramount: they even have their own nannies. Silvia Razgova / The National

Conjugal visits for married prisoners at Abu Dhabi’s biggest jail



ABU DHABI // Five private rooms are being built in Abu Dhabi’s biggest jail for husbands and wives to spend time alone together.

Some inmates will also be allowed out temporarily to visit their families at home. Authorities believe the scheme will strengthen family bonds and values, and therefore benefit society as a whole.

“This is a project we are all very excited about and working on around the clock,” said Col Mohammed Al Zaabi, head of Abu Dhabi’s punishment and corrections department.

The large private rooms are already being built at Al Wathba prison for conjugal visits that will be offered to all married prisoners.

“We are introducing it because it is important for us in our culture to preserve family bonds and values. When an inmate is allowed home to spend a few hours privately with his wife and children – imagine how that will help strengthen his ties with his family,” Col Al Zaabi said.

Col Al Zaabi said there was a draft law authorising the visits, but the legislation had not yet been passed.

“We hope these visits will be legalised within the coming year, but a project like this needs to be carefully studied as several problems can arise if not properly implemented,” he said.

“We don’t want a wife to complain that her husband raped her and that they had previous problems. Also regular medical tests will have to be conducted. There will also be a need for paternity tests in case the woman gets pregnant during a visit.”

Col Al Zaabi said some inmates would be allowed to make a home visit. “Many husbands, Emiratis in particular, find it unacceptable that their wives mingle with other men.

“So when we studied this project of permitting conjugal visits we recommended that instead of asking these women to come to the facility, we would allow inmates to temporarily leave the facility and visit their wives at home.”

Inmates who would be eligible for such a programme are those serving sentences for petty crimes and not deemed a flight risk.

“You might have a prisoner who is in for a misdemeanour or a bounced cheque but has shown aggressive behaviour in the facility and has attempted to harm other inmates,” Col Al Zaaabi said. “It would be dangerous to allow such an inmate outside the facility.”

Conjugal visits in other parts of the world, particularly the United States, have been on the decline because of high costs and children born from the visits.

In 1993, 17 US states had conjugal programmes. Now, only six do.

salnuwais@thenational.ae

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Forced Deportations

While the Lebanese government has deported a number of refugees back to Syria since 2011, the latest round is the first en-mass campaign of its kind, say the Access Center for Human Rights, a non-governmental organization which monitors the conditions of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

“In the past, the Lebanese General Security was responsible for the forced deportation operations of refugees, after forcing them to sign papers stating that they wished to return to Syria of their own free will. Now, the Lebanese army, specifically military intelligence, is responsible for the security operation,” said Mohammad Hasan, head of ACHR.
In just the first four months of 2023 the number of forced deportations is nearly double that of the entirety of 2022.

Since the beginning of 2023, ACHR has reported 407 forced deportations – 200 of which occurred in April alone.

In comparison, just 154 people were forcfully deported in 2022.

Violence

Instances of violence against Syrian refugees are not uncommon.

Just last month, security camera footage of men violently attacking and stabbing an employee at a mini-market went viral. The store’s employees had engaged in a verbal altercation with the men who had come to enforce an order to shutter shops, following the announcement of a municipal curfew for Syrian refugees.
“They thought they were Syrian,” said the mayor of the Nahr el Bared municipality, Charbel Bou Raad, of the attackers.
It later emerged the beaten employees were Lebanese. But the video was an exemplary instance of violence at a time when anti-Syrian rhetoric is particularly heated as Lebanese politicians call for the return of Syrian refugees to Syria.

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