Foreign-born youth to 'reunite' with UAE

Children left behind in other countries by Emirati fathers should not be living abroad, says the official in charge of an effort to reunite them with their Emirati families.

Children left behind in other countries by Emirati fathers are "children of the UAE" and should not be living abroad, said the Ministry of Interior official in charge of an effort to reunite them with their Emirati families.

UAE embassies around the world have received citizenship applications from children who claim to have Emirati fathers, yet do not carry any passport because they were left by the fathers in the homeland of their foreign mothers. The ministry wants the children to "reunite and blend with their fathers and their families", said Major Gen Nasser al Minhali, the head of a ministry committee appointed to verify the claims.

The committee is travelling to meet the children, checking the authenticity of their documents and conducting DNA tests. If paternity is proven, the children will be granted citizenship and allowed to come to the Emirates with their mothers. Living arrangements will be handled on an individual basis. Once here, the children will be enrolled in programmes to strengthen their national identity and teach them Emirati culture and traditions.

"We don't have that problem with the children who will be coming from GCC countries," Major Gen al Minhali said. "But those who lived for a long time in Mumbai, Egypt or Syria, some of which are high school students, got influenced by the culture there so their national identity needs to be asserted." The committee, which last year visited India, Egypt and Syria, left for Oman on Saturday to meet 10 children aged eight to 11. The team will also meet eight applicants in Qatar and 15 in Saudi Arabia. The results of last year's visits should be known by midyear.

"Children who are proven to be Emirati will be brought to the UAE, along with their mothers," said Gen al Minhali, who is the acting assistant undersecretary for Naturalisation, Residency and Ports Affairs. He said the ministry would work with social support institutions and the Ministry of Social Affairs to ensure the children blended in. The issue of national identity and citizenship remains a highly debated topic at the Federal National Council, which has called on government entities to find ways to "preserve the UAE identity".

"We are always looking at ways to tackle any complications pertaining to children born to local fathers or local mothers that are married to non-nationals to make sure these children get their rights," said Mohammed al Zaabi, an FNC member from Sharjah. "In the end, it goes back to the family unit. If the Emirati father doesn't put any effort in instilling UAE values in his children, regardless of who he married or where he is residing, his children will not feel they belong to the UAE nor will they encompass any UAE values," he said.

The UAE has one of the highest divorce rates in the Arab world, with four out of 10 marriages failing, according to the Marriage Fund. "It does not come as a surprise to hear of children of an Emirati father and a foreign mother struggling with a broken home," said Sheikh Rashid al Mansori, an expert in Islamic family science and a director at Al Farha Academy in Dubai. "But if these are cases of abandonment, then it is a great shame and the fathers should take responsibility for their actions.

"It is very difficult for Arab women to pass on their identity to their children, and so it is the responsibility of the man to at least secure the identity and citizenship for his children, regardless of his relation to the woman," he said. "It is not the child's fault to endure the mistakes of its parents."