The city of Dubai has closed hundreds of homeless shelters and shelters for vulnerable residents and those with disabilities.
The closing of the homeless shelters comes amid a rise in homeless deaths in the emirate, and a number of suicides among the city’s homeless population.
The emirates government has said it will spend up to $3.5bn (£2bn) to build more shelters and other facilities to deal with the growing number of homeless people in the UAE.
The closure of the shelters comes as Dubai grapples with an economic crisis and a rise of poverty among its population.
It comes a day after it was announced that the city will shut down its oldest shelter, the Al-Muhajirah, which was built in the early 20th century.
The Al-Rakah shelter was the last shelter in the city to be constructed before the city was founded in 1883.
Dubai’s Al-Qatar shelter was closed last year after a suicide attempt, with the emirs decision to close the remaining shelter a reaction to the suicide death rate.
In a statement, Dubai Mayor Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said the emiRays decision to shut down the Al Qatar shelter had been made with the objective to create space for people to be able to receive medical treatment.
“We will continue our efforts to provide medical treatment and shelter to the homeless people of Dubai,” he said.
A spokesperson for Dubai’s Homeless Shelter Authority said the shelter had shut down for good on Wednesday, as well as a shelter for people with mental health conditions.
“The shelter closed on Wednesday after a total of six days of operation, with all staff members transferred to other places, including residential and nursing homes, according to the official announcement,” said the spokesperson, who asked not to be named.
Al-Rashid Al-Muqaddimah, a human rights organisation, described the move as “shameful”.
“We have long called for an end to the shelter system that puts people in extreme danger and the closure of Al-Bars shelter is yet another sad day in the worsening human rights situation in the Emirate,” he added.
The United Nations has criticised Dubai’s move to close its shelters, which have long been a source of frustration for homeless residents.
The UAE has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, with more than 5,000 people a day taking their own lives, according the UN.
The number of people who commit suicide in the country has also risen since 2013, with at least 20,000 deaths attributed to poverty.
The country has been criticised for a lack of affordable housing and for not working to improve its social services, such as housing and healthcare.