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Overseas Health Insurance News: Call to allow expats to apply for citizenship in UAE sparks debate

Strong debate about the nature of national identity in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been sparked by the suggestion that expatriates could apply for citizenship.

The idea was mooted by Sultan Sooud al-Qassemi, a member of one of the country's ruling families, in a piece published by the Gulf News.

In it he argued that Emirati society is ready for change and that citizenship could be offered to those long-term foreign residents who have contributed a lot to the UAE.

Mr Qassemi wrote: "Perhaps it is time to consider a path to citizenship … that will open the door to entrepreneurs, scientists, academics and other hardworking individuals who have come to support and care for the country as though it was their own."

Since the article was published in September, there has been a lot of debate between people in the country, with many disagreeing with the viewpoint.

One of the aspects of the piece that many Emiratis have taken objection to is the fact that it was written in English and therefore aimed at a foreign audience as opposed to those who speak Arabic.

Many people have taken to Twitter to air their opinions and the hashtag 'this writer doesn't represent me' in Arabic has become a common sight.

Concerns from those who oppose the idea include the fact that billions of dollars are spent each year on providing 1.4 million citizens with free education, healthcare and housing loans, which could become stretched if expats were included.

One of the people who has come out in support of Mr Qassemi is Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a political scientist and citizen of the UAE.

He said: "I like a person who doesn't hesitate to take up the podium to speak up bravely on social and political issues, Sultan al Qassemi being a model."

The debate is an interesting one in a country where expats outnumber locals by five to one and much of the business infrastructure is based around foreigners bringing in their expertise.

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