Qatar firms cancel expat leave, restrict travel after Arab rift

Qatari and other nationals queue at the check in counters of the Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar. (AP)
Updated 23 June 2017

Qatar firms cancel expat leave, restrict travel after Arab rift

DOHA: Expatriates working for Qatar Petroleum and other organizations said on Thursday their employers had canceled holidays and barred them from leaving Qatar in the wake of its rift with other Arab states.
A Qatari official said some leave had been canceled in “essential government sectors” to keep staff on hand as authorities made plans to cope with the crisis, but did not mention travel restrictions or any focus on foreigners.
Expatriate executives and engineers at the energy group said the orders started a day after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed trade and transport links with Qatar this month accusing it of backing militants — a charge it dismisses.
Doctors from the government-run Hamad hospital made similar reports and others said the orders had affected hundreds of people.
There was no one immediately available to comment from Qatar Petroleum or the hospital.
“I was told not to travel. My exit permit and holiday was canceled,” said a British expatriate working for a subsidiary of state-owned Qatar Petroleum, the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas.
A work-sponsorship system widely enforced in the Gulf and known in Qatar as “kafala” requires foreign workers to get their employer’s consent to change jobs or leave the country.
Expatriates from Europe and America usually acquire multiple-exit permits from their employers allowing them to travel more freely than migrant laborers from India and Nepal who make up the bulk of the 2.7 million-strong population.
“Certain government bodies canceled leave so staff were present to help with vital planning such as chartering new shipping routes and getting food into the country,” said the Qatari official who declined to be named under briefing rules.


Security conference told of ‘Iranian menace’ to shipping in the Gulf

Updated 43 min 46 sec ago

Security conference told of ‘Iranian menace’ to shipping in the Gulf

  • “Aviation and maritime security are at the top of the policy agenda in the region,” says Bahraini FM
  • Pompeo warned of the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program

MANAMA: Delegates from more than 60 countries including Saudi Arabia met in Bahrain on Monday to discuss maritime security after attacks on tankers in the Gulf and Saudi oil installations, widely blamed on Iran.

“Aviation and maritime security are at the top of the policy agenda in the region,” Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa told the conference. “We must take a collective stand ... to take the necessary steps to protect our nations from rogue states.”

In a message to delegates, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned of the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program.

“This meeting comes at a critical moment in history,” he said. “The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their means of delivery, whether by air or sea, poses a serious threat to international peace and security.

“Together, we must all be committed to taking the necessary actions to stop countries that continue to pursue WMD at great risk to all of us.”

Countries taking part in the conference, including Israel, belong to the Maritime and Aviation Security Working Group, created in February during a Middle East conference in Warsaw.

“The meeting is an occasion to exchange views on how to deal with the Iranian menace and to guarantee freedom of navigation,” Bahrain’s foreign ministry said.

After the tanker attacks, the US formed a naval coalition to protect navigation. Bahrain, which hosts the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, joined in August, and Saudi Arabia and the UAE followed in September. The UK and Australia are the other main Western partners.