Qatari drivers near pole position in ranking of London parking offenders

Vehicles from Qatar racked up a staggering £191,105 ($256,578) in parking fines in Westminster between April 2016 and March 2017. (AN photo)
Updated 28 September 2017
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Qatari drivers near pole position in ranking of London parking offenders

LONDON: A visit to the UK capital means a fine day out for Qatari tourists — in more ways than one.
Drivers from the Gulf state were on Tuesday ranked second on a list of the most prolific parking offenders in the popular Westminster area.
The London borough is home to such famous sights as Big Ben, Trafalgar Square and the Houses of Parliament. But now you can add illegally parked Qatari supercars to that list.
Vehicles from the country racked up a staggering £191,105 ($256,578) in parking fines in Westminster between April 2016 and March 2017, according to figures released by the London council.
The council said that most of these fines go unpaid, although it could not give an exact figure.
Qatari drivers are parked just behind those from the UK’s near-neighbor France, which ranked top of the list, with fines worth an eye-watering £356,000.
Aside from European countries, the top 10 was dominated by Gulf states, with more Middle Eastern countries in the top 10 than ever before.
Supercars from across the region are now familiar sights across central London as Gulf tourists escape the heat and come to the UK capital for the summer with their four-wheeled status symbols in tow — with many attracting the attention of both passersby and parking inspectors.
The parking-fine figures are for a period before the June 5 move by the Anti-Terror Quartet — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain — to impose a series of sanctions on Doha over the latter’s alleged support of terror groups.
The quartet views the move as a “boycott” — although Doha interprets it more harshly, as a “blockade” against it.
Despite the claim by Doha, supercars with Qatari plates were still visible on the streets of central London over summer, and spending on Qatar-registered credit and debit cards rose in June, according to payments processing company Worldpay.
The UAE ranked third in the ranking of parking offenders in Westminster, with a total bill of £116,030. Saudi Arabia made it into the top 10 for the first time, pulling up in eighth place with drivers attracting fines worth £64,065; Kuwait was a spot back with £55,530 worth of parking tickets.
Danny Chalkley, a Westminster City councilor and Cabinet member dealing with highways, stressed the need for visitors to London to remember that being on holiday does not exempt them from the normal rules of the capital’s roads.
“We gladly welcome visitors from abroad who wish to visit our iconic roads and landmarks,” he said.
“However, drivers who park irresponsibly are a nuisance for our residents and visitors alike. This should be a reminder that a foreign number plate does not give you immunity from the law.
“We are committed to ensuring those who break the rules are forced to pay up.”
While parking illegally is nothing to shout out about, those Gulf drivers who are incurring the wrath of London’s parking attendants are at least polite, according to one traffic warden Arab News spoke to.
“When I dish them out with parking fines they never complain, they just accept it with a smile, they usually have a load of friends with them and they probably don’t want to cause a fuss in front of them,” one parking attendant, who declined to be named due to company policy, said.
The council has called on the UK government to establish an international system which allows local authorities to trace foreign motorists.


Holy Land churches cry foul over Israeli legislation on lands

Updated 54 min 48 sec ago
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Holy Land churches cry foul over Israeli legislation on lands

  • In their letter to Netanyahu, the Christian leaders slammed the “scandalous bill,” accusing its backers of an “unprecedented attack against the Christians of the Land.”
  • Large swathes of Jerusalem are owned by various churches, which in many cases reached long-term leasing agreements with the state.

JERUSALEM: Three major Holy Land churches implored Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to prevent the advancement of a draft bill they said was aimed at expropriating their lands.
Heads of the Armenian, Greek Orthodox and Catholic churches in Jerusalem also accused the Israeli authorities of failing to keep a committment made just a few months ago that brought an end to a major crisis between the sides.
In February, the Jerusalem municipality began enforcing tax collection on church property, while separately lawmakers in the parliament worked on advancing a law that would allow expropriation of church property.
The church leaders in protest closed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site in Jerusalem where Jesus is believed to have been crucified and buried, following which Israeli authorities froze both the tax measures and the legislation, committing to a dialogue with the Christians over the issues.
Rachel Azaria, a lawmaker with the centrist coalition party Kulanu, recently renewed work on a slightly revised bill that does not mention churches but would let the state expropriate the rights over lands sold by such bodies in Jerusalem, while offering compensation.
In their Monday letter to Netanyahu, the Christian leaders slammed the “scandalous bill,” accusing its backers of an “unprecedented attack against the Christians of the Land.”
“Certain elements in the government of Israel are still attempting to promote divisive, racist and subversive agendas, thereby undermining the Status Quo and targeting the Christian community on the basis of extraneous and populist considerations,” they said.
The church leaders also said that despite the Israeli committment to communicate on these issues via a specially appointed committee headed by Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, “no dialogue whatsoever has taken place with us” since the end of February.
“We view such conduct, from those who promote the bill, as a flagrant violation and undermining of Your Excellency’s commitment and of the basic and fundamental freedom of worship,” the church leaders said.
They urged Netanyahu to swiftly “block the bill whose unilateral promotion will compel the Churches to reciprocate.”
Large swathes of Jerusalem are owned by various churches, which in many cases reached long-term leasing agreements with the state.
Residents living in homes on such lands fear the churches could sell the lands to private developers, who would be free to do as they wish with their property, including raising rents or razing existing structures.
Azaria said her bill did not single out churches, and was aimed at solving the problem of “thousands of Jerusalem residents who could lose their homes due to the demands of developers.”
There was no immediate comment from Netanyahu’s office while Hanegbi refused to comment.
A spokeswoman for Azaria told AFP the bill was coordinated with Netanyahu and Hanegbi.