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Tighter rules on EU visas would hurt Dubai Inc.
OPINION: Changing the UAE’s open border policies in the wake of the Mossad assassination would have dire consequences for business.
February 23, 2010 5:27 by Ben Flanagan
As more and more suspects emerge following the murder of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the spotlight is turning on how the assassins entered the UAE – and how legislation can be tightened to prevent such security breaches in the future.
Of the 18 suspects in the case, the majority apparently traveled to the UAE on fake British, Irish, German and French passports. The falsifying of the passports – reportedly undertaken at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport – has drawn heavy censure from the EU countries involved, as well as from the UAE.
“The UAE is deeply concerned by the fact that passports of close allies, whose nationals currently enjoy preferential visa waivers, were illegally used to commit this crime,” the UAE foreign ministry said in a statement on official news agency WAM.
“The abuse of passports poses a global threat, affecting both countries’ national security as well as the personal security of travelers,” UAE foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan said in the statement.
Some media outlets have interpreted these statements as a sign that the UAE will tighten its entry policies for EU citizens. The UAE currently grants tourist visas upon arrival to citizens of 33 countries, including the UK, Ireland, France and Germany – the four nations allegedly chosen by Mossad in its passport forgeries. Other nations on the list include the US, Canada and Australia.
But according to yesterday’s Washington Post, the Mossad assassination may prompt the UAE “to review the open border policies that have made it a commercial and tourist hub”.
The newspaper did not seem to attribute this claim to anything more than hints made by the UAE foreign ministry over “preferential visa waivers”, and acknowledges that the UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan said that the UAE wants “to protect its long-held position as a hospitable country”.
However, a report in the Irish Times has further evidence that the UAE may be considering a review of its entry rules.