Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (CNN) — Emirati authorities canceled dozens of Syrians’ residency permits after a protest against the Syrian government in the United Arab Emirates, sources said.
More than 2,000 people protested against the Syrian regime on February 10, said a source close to the leadership of the Syrian National Council, which opposes the Syrian government.
The demonstrators did not have a permit to protest outside the Syrian consulate in Dubai, the source said. The source said the SNC has been negotiating with the UAE’s foreign ministry and was assured last week that the permits would be reinstated — but that has not happened.
Dubai police asked the protesters to leave. Most left, but dozens stayed behind and continued protesting, the source said.
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He said about 60 Syrians had their residency permits canceled.
But a United Arab Emirates official said the number of Syrians affected was much lower.
“The decision was not to renew the residence of a few people — much less than 60. It was around 30,” said the official, who did not want to be identified. “It was not to deport them or to send them to Syria. It was to give them the option to go anywhere they wish.”
The official said authorities could have arrested hundreds because “the demonstration was not licensed. It was not legal. Nevertheless, nobody touched anybody, nobody was arrested.”
He added that the Syrians who lost residency permits had been “involved in other activities” — but would not detail what those activities were.
The first source, the one close to the SNC leadership, said UAE authorities gave the Syrians a Wednesday deadline to leave the country. At least five have left the UAE in recent days, including two to Cairo, two to Jordan and one to Saudi Arabia, he said.
But the UAE official said the deadline is “flexible.”
The first source said while the protesters who stayed “were in the wrong” for not leaving when told to do so. But “that doesn’t mean the UAE needs to cancel their residencies.”
He said protesters are “asking for mercy from UAE authorities, as this won’t just affect the men whose residencies were canceled — but their families as well.”
A Syrian who left after Emirati officials gave him 10 days to depart said he is worried about his future.
“I lived and worked in the UAE for years, all my family is there. I never did anything wrong,” said the man who did not want to be named out of fear for his family.