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Qatar: Hotline for mixed-families a face-saving act

Rights group calls hotline set up by Saudi, UAE and Bahrain to help mixed-citizenship families a 'face-saving' exercise.

Qatar's National Human Rights Committee has dismissed a move by three Gulf Arab states, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, to assist mixed-citizenship families who face the prospect of being split up, as "little more than a face-saving" exercise.

The NHRC said in a statement on Sunday that a hotline set up by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain to assist mixed Qatari families who faced the prospect of deportation and expulsion was "too vague to have any practical impact" and was "void of a mechanism to be of assistance to those affected."

"The directives provide no solution to the serious legal and human rights issues that have resulted from the arbitrary measures imposed by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain on the State of Qatar, which are in violation of all humanitarian norms, charters and principles, and constitute international human rights crimes." The statement said.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which have cut ties with Qatar, announced via state media on Sunday the creation of hotlines to help families with Qatari members.

The statements carried by their official news agencies did not specify what services the hotline would provide.

On Monday, the three countries severed diplomatic ties with Qatar and shortly after ordered Qatari nationals to leave within 14 days.

Saudi, UAE and Bahraini citizens were also given the same timeframe to leave Qatar.

As a result, hundreds of mixed-citizenship Qatari couples are facing the grim prospect of being split from their families.

Qatari officials have repeatedly stated that the ultimatum issued by Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain for Qatari citizens to leave was a violation of human rights that required UN intervention.

"The siege of Qatar is not only a gross violation of the rights of Gulf citizens (both Qatari and non-Qatari), but also the rights of expat residents in the State of Qatar," the NHRC said in the statement.

"The blockade of Qatar has trampled over a wide range of civil, economic social and cultural rights. The right to movement and residence, the right to private property, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to religious freedom, the right to work, the right to education, and the right to health have all been seriously damaged.

"Families have been split apart, livelihoods are being lost, and the academic prospects of students are being destroyed.

Amnesty International has also slammed the decision accusing the Gulf states of toying with the lives of thousands of people in their dispute with Qatar.

"For potentially thousands of people across the Gulf, the effect of the steps imposed in the wake of this political dispute is suffering, heartbreak and fear," James Lynch, the deputy director of Amnesty International’s Global Issues Programme said.

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