Qatar crisis – what implications for British architects?
On 4 June 2017, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE and Egypt suspended diplomatic ties with Qatar; the UK Foreign Office advises that there will be severe disruption of movement and partial or full closure of all air, naval and border crossings from these countries into and from Qatar from the early hours of 6 June 2017, leading to flight cancellations and a disruption in air and sea travel.
Flights between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and between Qatar and Egypt were already suspended on June 5 until further notice. All air and sea points of entry between Qatar and UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt were to be closed from the early hours of 6 June 2017.
Anyone planning to travel in the area should check directly with their airline carrier or tour operator before travelling. The additional restrictions on travel and residence imposed on Qatari nationals do not apply to British nationals.
The British Council in Doha responded to questions regarding UK nationals travelling from Qatar to UAE on business who are resident in Qatar:
“It appears that this situation will not affect UK nationals who would otherwise be eligible for a visa on arrival in the UAE. Those passport holders who were required to apply for a UAE visa will have to apply for a visa - their Qatar residency doesn't automatically allow them to travel to the UAE.”
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) also recommends following their travel advice on Twitter and Facebook. The British Embassy Doha has its own Twitter and Facebook accounts and will help share critical information via alerts.
Some concerns have been voiced about a possible food shortage as much of Qatar's food is said to be imported through the now-closed land border with Saudi Arabia. In response, British Council staff in Doha shared a message from the Qatari Ministry of Economy and Commerce that reassures residents and visitors of surplus food supplies and largely business as usual as far as sea and air transport routes are concerned: “The Gulf Arab countries who have closed the airspace to Qatar comprise only 7 percent of the total operations daily.”
However, many goods and materials arrive via Dubai’s Jebel Ali port, which services Gulf cities such as Doha. This transport connection has now been closed, adding to the disruption to business operations and supply chains.
The blockade hits at a time when Qatar is spending $500m a week building infrastructure in preparations for the 2022 football World Cup, according to the Financial Times. If it is not resolved soon it will likely have a significant impact on the construction sector in the Gulf state, as Saudi Arabia is also a key important route for construction materials. Establishing alternative routes and sources will take time and is bound to increase prices. Whether this will jeopardise the timely delivery of facilities for the World Cup is too early to say.
Helen Logan, Partner at Allies and Morrison, comments:
“Like us, many British architects are successfully exporting design services to both Qatar and its Gulf neighbours.
It is entirely possible that this current dispute will have no direct impact on any of our commissions. However, individually, we can do little to ensure this should travel restrictions, for example, hamper our ability to service our projects. “
RIBA Head of International Marcus Deeley advises:
“The RIBA is monitoring the situation in Qatar carefully and is in close and regular contact with UK Government organisations in Doha and Dubai. Members with concerns can contact our International Team, which includes our RIBA Gulf Committee for further information. Our members planning to travel to the region should keep an eye on the UK Foreign Office website for the latest advice.”
The current spat is not the first incident of diplomatic escalation between Qatar and some of its neighbours. In 2014, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE pulled out their diplomatic teams from Qatar on the grounds of similar allegations of the country’s alleged support for Islamic militant activity.
Bloomberg offers further background on the reasons behind the regional stand-off and the relations between neighbouring countries.
If you’re in the region and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
British nationals are also encouraged to read FCO guidance on precautions to take if they are travelling to or resident in areas where a crisis may occur.