Emirates Leaks

UAE investments in Comoros for suspicious reason

The UAE is investing millions of dollars for a suspicious reason: to buy passports for its citizens who are arbitrarily deprived of the UAE passport and are known as “Bidoon.”

The UAE has plans worth 36.7 million dirhams to invest in multiple sectors in Comoros, the UAE daily The National reported. The newspaper also published an image of the Comorian passport.

Projects relating to health, education, water, food, and shelter cover the archipelago country off the east coast of Africa. According to the official newspaper, “Forty housing units will be built, and five schools will be renovated as part of the development plan.”

She pointed out that Comoros will receive a new treatment center for dialysis and a fully equipped motherhood and childhood unit. Thousands of food baskets and basic household items will be distributed as part of the project.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE Red Crescent, said that the projects are part of the UAE’s humanitarian efforts in Comoros to achieve development goals and provide basic services.

Nearly half of the country’s 850,000 people live below the poverty line and live on less than $ 1.25 a day. The state ranks low on the human development index, which determines life expectancy, education, and per capita income.

In January 2018, the Comorian government recognized for the first time that it had sold its nationality to some 52,000 foreigners since 2009 in the first official statement on the passport-for-money agreement with the UAE.

Newspapers and international reports said 40,000 passports had been sold to the Bidoon in the UAE. In August 2018, a lawyer for former Comorian President Ahmad Abdullah Sambi announced that the judiciary had decided to place him under house arrest for embezzling funds linked to passports for the Bidoons in the UAE.

Bidoons are stateless groub belong mainly to families living in the area but have never been included in housing statistics for several reasons. They were not placed because of their tribal affiliation; some of them were nomads before the borders were created.

Although the UAE government has not released figures showing the Bidoon population, estimates of up to 150,000 Bidoon live in the UAE.

The state pays about 4,000 euros per passport, which has cost the UAE at least 200 million euros since 2008, a third of Comoros’ annual GDP.

The UAE initially sent funds through intermediaries who pledged to build the island’s infrastructure. When these development plans did not live up to expectations, Emiratis began transferring money directly to the Central Bank of Comoros from an account controlled by the Ministry of the Interior in Abu Dhabi.

The rulers of the UAE eliminate many citizens who are deprived of their nationality or so-called “Bidoons” by buying their nationalities from Comoros in an arbitrary and illegal violation.

Comoros signed an agreement with the UAE in 2008 to sell citizenship to stateless people living in Persian Gulf states, in exchange for funds for the impoverished Indian Ocean state.

While the Foreign Minister of Comoros said most of the documents had been sold under a plan that was approved, the Comorian parliament was investigating complaints of corruption and failure to follow the procedures.

The undisclosed number of passports means that Comoros has received more than $ 260 million, equivalent to more than 40 percent of the country’s population of about 800,000.

However, investigators in Comoros say there are too many to know where they went. Interior Minister Mohammed Daoud said the authorities had halted the sale of new passports and the renewal of old documents with foreigners until the end of the parliamentary questioning and investigations into selling them to people outside the official agreement.

The government says it has sought help from Interpol and US government investigators adding that this situation had caused problems concerning relations with partners, especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

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