Several Middle Eastern countries, including the UAE, have severed diplomatic and business ties with Qatar. The measures are such that all Qataris in the these countries (Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain and a handful of others) must leave within 14 days. And Qatar Airways, the emirate’s national airline, is banned from entering the airspace of its Gulf neighbours, too.
There are other ramifications around the closure of Qatari offices in these countries, as well as Qatari TV stations being unable to broadcast in them. Indeed, there are ramifications across the board, and people are naturally worried about how the new measures might affect them.
In this article, we’ll try to put some of those worries to rest by collecting all the available information on the unfolding Qatar crisis. We won’t go into the politics behind the crisis; we’ll simply bring you information on how it might affect you as a UAE resident, and how to deal with those knock-on effects. And we’ll be updating this guide as and when new information comes to light, so keep checking back.
UPDATE: A UAE Minister has said that the Qatar crisis, in its current form, could last for years. While both citizens and leaders of the Gulf are hoping for a quick resolution, the UAE minister said that Qatar’s policies need to change significantly before the other Gulf states lift their isolation of Qatar.
When the announcement about severing diplomatic ties with Qatar came out Monday morning, the UAE government said that Qatari citizens had 14 days to leave the country. That still hasn’t changed, meaning that the clock is ticking. What’s more, the UAE’s news agency said that Qatari nationals wouldn’t be allowed into the country, with immediate effect. However, with flights in and out of Qatar severely disrupted (read on for more on that), it’s likely that, if you are a Qatari in the UAE, you’ll have to make your way to Oman or Kuwait and head back to Qatar from there.
The other side of this coin is that UAE citizens are also prevented from going to Qatar. And if you’re an Emirati already in Qatar, you have the same 14 days to leave.
UPDATE: The ban on Qatari citizens has been extended to include expat residents of Qatar, too. So if you live in Qatar and you’re in the UAE for business or pleasure, you’ll have to leave within the timeframe given to Qatari citizens. What’s more, if you’re a Qatari resident or citizen, you won’t be allowed to board international flights that go via Dubai. This was confirmed when an expat resident of Qatar tried to board a Qantas flight to Australia (via Dubai), and wasn’t allowed past check-in.
UPDATE: The UAE has issued a new directive that considers the humanitarian issues of splitting up Emirati-Qatari families. As a result, if your family is part-Emirati and part-Qatari, and you’re worried about your family being split by the ongoing crisis, you can call a hotline for assistance. The hotline’s number is +971 800 2626.
UPDATE: The deadline has now passed for Qatari nationals to leave the UAE, and for UAE nationals to leave Qatar. However, exceptions have been made for Qatari nationals married to UAE nationals.
This is the big one for most expats. If you’re in the UAE and you’ve got a flight booked through Qatar Airways for your next holiday or business trip, you’re in for a headache. All flights to Qatar from the UAE have been suspended, and Qatar Airways is now banned from flying in UAE, Saudi and Egyptian airspace, meaning, if you do find a way to Qatar (via Oman or Kuwait), your flight out of Qatar will be longer than expected.
So what do you do about this? Well, if you need to, you can claim a refund from Qatar Airways – you’ll get most of the fare back, minus some of the service fees. However, there’s also the option to re-route your flight through some of Qatar Airways’ partner airlines. Unfortunately, reports from Twitter suggest that the airline hasn’t been enormously helpful with facilitating these re-bookings, with only the most persistent customers getting much of a response. So if that’s the route you want to take, be prepared for a lot of wrangling with the airline.
And if you were planning on visiting Qatar, you won’t be able to fly there from the UAE. As mentioned earlier, you’ll have to go via Kuwait or Oman. Emirates, Etihad FlyDubai and Air Arabia have all cancelled their services from the UAE to Qatar, and Qatar Airways is no longer accepting bookings for flights from the UAE. If you’ve got a flight to Qatar already booked on any of those airlines, you’ll be eligible for a refund.
UPDATE: The UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority has shut down Qatar Airways’ offices in the country. This means that, if you’re trying to call up the airline to claim a refund, you won’t have much joy calling its offices in the UAE. Indeed, even if you’re calling the head office in Qatar, you may struggle; with the number of calls the airline is taking, many people are struggling to get through at all. One Twitter user (an ex-travel agent) reports that some people are having more luck calling the airline’s Hong Kong office. We’d recommend following him for tips on how to deal with your flights if you’re still having trouble.
While there’s been no official word on restrictions on moving money into and out of Qatar from the UAE. UAE Exchange, a foreign exchange firm, says that trading on the riyal is normal, but the company is keeping an eye on the situation as well as watching out for any government directives. No banks have publicly stated their position on sending funds to or receiving money from Qatar, so you’ll have to simply go ahead and try – and hope for the best.
UPDATE: According to a statement from the UAE Central Bank on Wednesday, payment and remittance transactions are operating as usual. Though the statement didn’t specifically mention payments to Qatar, this suggests that UAE residents can still send money over there for the time being. The UAE Central Bank did, however, say that it would continue to monitor the situation, so there may be more news to come.
UPDATE: The UAE has blacklisted dozens of individuals with links to Qatar, with the UAE Central Bank advising consumer banks to freeze the assets of these individuals. Now, obviously that list doesn’t apply to most people, but the Central Bank has also advised UAE banks to conduct greater due diligence on customers holding accounts with six Qatari banks – Qatar Islamic Bank, Qatar International Islamic Bank, Barwa Bank, Masraf Al Rayan, Qatar National Bank, Doha Bank. What’s more, if there isn’t a resolution to the crisis, financial sanctions could be looming, making it much more difficult to move money between the UAE and Qatar.
Just as Qatar has been blocked by air, sea transit to the country has also been cut off. This means no sea imports from Qatar will be allowed through, and no exports to Qatar can go ahead, either. If your business depends on either of these, you’re in for a turbulent time.
Another knock-on effect of this announcement has been that TV stations originating in Qatar have been disrupted in the UAE. On Monday evening, plenty of TV subscribers took to Twitter to complain that their beIN sports channels had been cut off, and it was the same story for those trying to tune into the Al Jazeera news channels. There’s been no word yet on when or if these services will be brought back for UAE TV subscribers, and no word on whether subscribers are eligible for refunds on their packages.
UPDATE: Dubai-based operator du has acknowledged the problem of beIN Sports being blocked in the UAE, and says that it will be in touch with affected customers. However, there does seem to be some optimism about the issue being sorted from du, as it has told Twitter users that it will notify them “once the service is restored“.
According to this report from Al Arabiya, you’ll want to be careful about showing any sympathy towards Qatar online if you’re based in the UAE. The UAE’s General Prosecutor, Hamad Saif Al-Shamsi, warned that showing any sympathy towards the country online could be treated as a cybercrime – carrying a sentence of up to 15 years in prison and fines of up to AED 500,000.
Check back later for more details as and when they’re released.