UAE may move to tighten entry rules for EU citizens

Tue, Feb 23, 2010, 00:00

VISAS:THE USE of forged European documentation, including five Irish passports, by the alleged assassins of a senior Hamas official in Dubai could have repercussions for the thousands of Irish people living in the United Arab Emirates if it prompts authorities there to review immigration policies that allow easy entry for EU citizens.

Under the UAE’s current immigration rules, passport holders from Europe and the United States can enter without pre-arranging a visa.

But in the wake of last month’s assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, which Dubai police allege was likely orchestrated by Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency and carried out by up to 18 people carrying passports from Britain, Ireland, France and Germany, Emirati officials have hinted that this may change.

UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said at the weekend that authorities there were “deeply concerned by the fact that passports of close allies, whose nationals currently enjoy preferential visa waivers, were illegally used to commit this crime”.

UAE foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed al-Nahayan said the federation would continue to do everything to protect its long-held position as a hospitable country that provides stability and security for its citizens as well as the residents, visiting tourists and the thriving business community within the bounds of UAE law.”

In a telephone conversation with Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin last Friday, Sheikh Abdullah highlighted the possible consequences of the breach of passport security. He told Mr Martin there was increasing pressure within the UAE to impose tighter visa conditions on EU visitors.

“If there were any restrictions or any curbing of the relatively easy access we now have to the UAE, it would obviously have an impact on Irish citizens and families who currently work there – people who are anxious to visit there and particularly those who are seeking opportunities there, Mr Martin said.