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.


Amnesty slams Qatar tracing app for exposing data of a million users

Updated 8 min 33 sec ago

Amnesty slams Qatar tracing app for exposing data of a million users

  • Glitch made users’ ID numbers, location, infection status vulnerable to hackers
  • More than 47,000 of Qatar’s 2.75 million people have tested positive for

DOHA: A security flaw in Qatar’s controversial mandatory coronavirus contact tracing app exposed sensitive information of more than one million users, rights group Amnesty International warned Tuesday.
The glitch, which was fixed on Friday after being flagged by Amnesty a day earlier, made users’ ID numbers, location and infection status vulnerable to hackers.
Privacy concerns over the app, which became mandatory for residents and citizens on pain of prison from Friday, had already prompted a rare backlash and forced officials to offer reassurance and concessions.
Users and experts had criticized the array of permissions required to install the app including access to files on Android devices, as well as allowing the software to make unprompted phone calls.
Despite insisting the unprecedented access was necessary for the system to work, officials said they would address privacy concerns and issued reworked software over the weekend.
“Amnesty International’s Security Lab was able to access sensitive information, including people’s name, health status and the GPS coordinates of a user’s designated confinement location, as the central server did not have security measures in place to protect this data,” the rights group said in a statement.
“While Amnesty International recognizes the efforts and actions taken by the government of Qatar to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures introduced to date, such as access to free health care, all measures must be in line with human rights standards.”
More than 47,000 of Qatar’s 2.75 million people have tested positive for the respiratory disease — 1.7 percent of the population — and 28 people have died.
Like other countries, Qatar has turned to mobiles to trace people’s movements and track who they come into contact with, allowing officials to monitor coronavirus infections and flag possible contagion.
“The Ehteraz app’s user privacy and platform security are of the utmost importance,” Qatar’s health ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
“A comprehensive update of the app was rolled out on Sunday May 24 with expanded security and privacy features for all users.”
But Etheraz, which means “Precaution,” continues to allow real-time location tracking of users by authorities at any time, Amnesty said.
“It was a huge security weakness and a fundamental flaw in Qatar’s contact tracing app that malicious attackers could have easily exploited,” said Claudio Guarnieri, head of the group’s security lab.
“The Qatari authorities must reverse the decision to make use of the app mandatory,” he said.