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Qatar set to deport Yemeni man at risk of torture by Houthi rebels: HRW

Human Rights Watch criticises Qatar for failing to use its own asylum laws to protect man and his family
Qatar is a signatory to the UN Convention on Torture (AFP)

Qatar has threatened to deport a Yemeni man at risk of arrest and torture by Houthi rebels despite passing a law that protects asylum seekers, a rights group has warned. 

The man has said that Qatari authorities have pressured him and his wife and two children to leave the country since November 2017, according to Human Rights Watch.

At first, he told HRW, authorities threatened to deport him to Yemen, but have said more recently that they would send him to Oman or Sudan.

But to enter Oman, he would be required to get a visa, but even then the sultanate has few legal protections for asylum seekers. In Sudan, the family has "no meaningful connections", HRW said in a release.

Instead, HRW has urged Doha to give the man and his family temporary residency based on a law passed in September 2018 allowing foreign nationals to claim asylum in the country.

According to the rights group, Qatari authorities have told the man that he cannot claim asylum under the law because the committee that would implement the law hasn't been set up yet.  

Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch said that Qatar appears to be "abandoning the promise of protection".

"Qatar should urgently create the procedures needed to give asylum seekers an opportunity to present and pursue their claims and stop turning asylum seekers away without consideration," Fakih said in a statement.

"Qatari authorities have had nearly six months to create the framework necessary to implement a much-needed law. Instead, in a blow to their stated sincerity around reform, they appear poised to turn away one of its first potential beneficiaries."

Middle East Eye has sought a comment from Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but hadn't received a response by the time of publication.

More than 60,000 people - civilians and combatants - have been killed in Yemen during almost four years of the war, which has left three-quarters of the population in what was already the region's poorest country seeking some form of aid.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, around three million Yemenis have fled as a result of the war which has its roots in the 2011 uprisings that ousted longtime leader Ali Abdullah Saleh.

In 2014, the Houthis seized control of the capital Sanaa and started sporadically firing missiles into Saudi Arabia which, supported by the United Arab Emirates, launched a military operation in Yemen in 2015 to root out the rebels.