As nations sever ties with Qatar, how will it affect mobility?

As Saudi Arabia, the UAE and several other nations sever diplomatic ties with Qatar over terrorism allegations, how will the results affect global mobility, business travel and shipping in the region?

As nations sever ties with Qatar, how will it affect mobility?
As Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Yemen, Libya, and the Maldives suspend all diplomatic ties with the nation of Qatar, Mauritius and possibly Jordan are now reportedly following. Stemming from this crisis, air flights and shipping in the region have been profoundly affected, and Qatari nationals as well as citizens of the boycotting nations have been urged to exit opposing countries and return home.As Saudi Arabia, the UAE and several other nations sever diplomatic ties with Qatar over terrorism allegations, how will the results affect global mobility, business travel and shipping in the region?


The impetus for the current situation has been developing for some time. However, the immediate advent of the crisis and the seemingly coordinated action of the initial four nations came somewhat as a surprise. Relations between Qatar and its fellow predominately Sunni Muslim neighbors have remained strained over what is viewed as inappropriately cordial relations between Qatar and predominately Shia Muslim Iran.Qatar and Iran have long maintained relatively close relations, primarily for economic reasons – sharing the world’s largest underwater natural gas field under the Persian Gulf. Against this historic backdrop of religious and cultural differences, Qatar has openly supported the Muslim Brotherhood for decades, which is viewed by many Middle Eastern nations and their western allies as a terrorist organisation.Bringing all of this to a head this week appears to have been the intersection of U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia and a recent controversy over statements attributed to Qatar’s emir appearing on the state-controlled Qatar New Agency website – which many experts believe to be false and the work of hackers.Many observers believe Saudi Arabia may have been emboldened to take the current action against Qatar now as a result of President Trump’s encouragement of Saudi Arabia taking a more active role against state sponsors of terrorism in the region.

How might it affect you?

Air Flights Canceled and Airspace, Borders, and Seaports Closed – Within 36 hours of Monday’s announcement, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt had all closed their airspace to Qatari aircraft. UAE-based airlines Etihad, Emirates, and FlyDubai quickly canceled flights to and from Qatar’s two international airports: Doha International and Hamad International.The four initial boycotting nations followed shortly with official bans of all fights between their countries and Qatar, and Saudi Arabia revoked operating licenses of the state-owned Qatar Airways, effectively ejecting them from the country. Qatar’s only land border – with Saudi Arabia – is now closed to all traffic, and the seaports of all seven boycotting nations are refusing port to any ship flying the Qatari flag. As of the time of this writing, Emirates, Etihad, FlyDubai, Air Arabia, Saudia, Gulf Air, and Egypt Air have canceled all flights through Doha indefinitely.Surrounded by its boycotting neighbours, limited passenger and freight air flights continue in and out of Qatar’s capital and major city of Doha through a narrow strip of Bahraini airspace crossing the Persian Gulf in protracted routes over Iran and Turkey to avoid closed airspace.Qatari Citizens in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt to be Ejected – Qatari citizens present in the four initial countries have been given 14 days to exit – by both those four governments and their own government – regardless of whether they hold temporary or permanent residence status. But with all air flights and sea passage canceled between Qatar and those nations, getting home has been challenging.Reportedly, Qatari nationals are boarding flights to Oman and Kuwait and transiting on to Qatar. All four nations have also banned travel by their citizens to Qatar and ordered that they exit Qatar. There is no word yet of the Qatari government taking similar reciprocal action against any foreign nationals of other nations currently in Qatar.Inside Qatar – Reports from inside Qatar indicate that business and daily life there continues relatively unaffected thus far. Apart from the transportation and shipping industries, other local and foreign operations in-country report business as usual. Oil production – the predominate basis of Qatar’s economy – continues unimpeded.Construction continues on transportation, housing, and venue projects in anticipation of hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup. While the Qatar stock market experienced a nine percent drop in value on Monday in reaction to events, a modest recovery brought much of the losses back by Thursday.While in-country supplies are currently sufficient for immediate demand, reports of panic bulk-buying of essential food stuffs in local grocery stores have been reported as consumers anticipate the potential of a prolonged air, land, and sea boycott. Qatar is the richest nation in the world in terms of GDP per capita, but little of its resources are devoted to food production.Reportedly, 90 per cent of its food is imported, with approximately 40 per cent coming from Saudi Arabia by truck over the peninsula’s only land border. Anticipating the problem, both Iran and Turkey have already pledged to boost food imports to Qatar via shipping across the Gulf to minimize the shortfall.

How long will the situation last?

Kuwait has already stepped in to mediate between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, but the rift is seemingly entrenched and deeply-rooted and the nations may not be amenable to immediate resolution. One indicator that Saudi Arabia may intend this as a lasting statement is the formal revocation of the operating license of Qatar Airways. Rather than simply suspending flights, the Saudi government took the more permanent step of formally revoking the license in one of Qatar Airway’s two primary world-wide hubs.The current crisis does appear to have the potential to continue for some time. While similar disputes between Qatar and its neighbors have erupted in the past – including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain previously recalling their ambassadors in 2014 – this current action appears far deeper and to have more potential for lasting impact.
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At present, prudence would dictate companies to not make any permanent changes in business position in the region but remain flexible and agile so as to respond to the changing environment appropriately

How can businesses in the region manage the uncertainty?

Business Travel – Generally, business travel to the involved countries, including Qatar, will be open to nationals of all uninvolved countries. While general caution, awareness, and adherence to any existing government travel advisories is urged, there is no indication that the current situation offers any legal impediment to travel through the region for citizens of nations not involved in the diplomatic conflict.With that said, the high number of flight cancelations has put a temporary strain on other flight routes. While air travelers in the region are experiencing delays in the short-term, routes will adjust to avoid the two international airports in Doha. For most airlines, this may result in slightly longer routes and possibly slightly higher ticket prices.The long-term impact for most airlines and their passengers will be minimal – with the noted exception of Qatar Airways, which is likely to sustain huge losses in business and significantly higher costs of longer routes to avoid closed airspace and banned airports. Business travelers on Qatar Airways are likely to face delays and higher costs for some time.Shipping – Reports throughout the Middle East indicate that vessels under the Qatari flag are making substantial route diversions to avoid banned ports and transit through Egypt’s Suez Canal route between the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, and the Arabian Sea. In the long-term, international shipping will adjust with volume being shifted to non-Qatari vessels. However, in the short-term, businesses should expect delays and higher costs.Mobility of Nationals of the Involved Nations – While thus far, Qatari nationals are only being ejected from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt, it is advisable that Qatari nationals plan to exit and avoid travel to Yemen, Chad, Senegal, Libya, the Maldives and Mauritius as well. Qatari nationals currently in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt should exit those countries as soon as possible – but no later than June 19. Companies should also expect visa and work permit denials for Qatari nationals by these countries for the foreseeable future.In addition, nationals of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt should heed the instructions of their governments to exit Qatar before June 19 and avoid future travel to Qatar. Likewise, nationals of Yemen, Chad, Senegal, Libya, the Maldives, and Mauritius should be prepared for their governments to issue similar orders to exit and avoid travel to Qatar in the coming days.While no official action appears to have yet been taken by the Qatari government, nationals of all countries in this dispute with Qatar should prepare for the possibility of the Qatari government issuing a reciprocal order for them to exit and be banned from Qatar.One additional question that appears unanswered now is as to the status of foreign citizens of other uninvolved nations who currently hold residential authorization in Qatar. It is unknown whether these individuals, due to their residential status in Qatar, will be denied entry into any of the involved nations. However, it is certainly advisable for these nationals to avoid any unnecessary travel to the involved nations until that status is more clear.As stated previously, the situation remains highly fluid, and Pro-Link GLOBAL is closely monitoring media reports, official announcements, and reports from personnel on the ground. We’ll continue to report on major developments as they occur. In the meantime, our clients are encouraged to reach out to their Immigration Specialist with any pressing concerns.This immigration dispatch was prepared by Pro-Link GLOBAL Visa and Immigration Services.For related news and features, visit our Immigration section.Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory  Get access to our free Global Mobility Toolkit Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centreCaveat Lector | Warning to Reader This is provided as informational only and does not substitute for actual legal advice based on the specific circumstances of a matter. We would like to remind you that Immigration laws are fluid and can change at a moment's notice without any warning.

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