There is shock as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has targeted Nigerians, imposing stiffer visa regulations for any of the intending travellers.
The new regulations, which came after a public disturbance allegedly involving some Nigerians, is generating concerns among Nigerian travellers just as it has dealt a blow to the leisure and travel industry.
Daily Trust, which shed light on the new visa regime and its implications for Nigerians, said the new stiffer visa rules came into being after a video emerged last week of some Africans causing a public disturbance in Dubai, the UAE capital.
And the UAE government, which does not joke with security and public disturbance issues, was expected to react appropriately in a bid to protect the country and its citizens from any form of harm.
In the video, youths were seen fighting in a Dubai community, destroying public property.
An unconfirmed report claimed that a Dubai Police officer was killed by the hoodlums.
The Nigerian Community in Dubai under the umbrella of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO), United Arab Emirates (UAE) chapter, swiftly condemned the development while particularly commending the swift intervention of the Dubai Police who got the hoodlums, about seven of them, arrested.
After arresting them, the Police said a criminal case has been registered against the suspects and they will be referred to the public prosecution for further action.
The Dubai Police warned against such unacceptable behaviour and urged the community members to report such behaviour through ‘Police Eye Service’ on Dubai Police app or by calling the emergency hotline 999. The Force also warned the public of publishing or forwarding clips to avoid legal accountability according to article 52 of the UAE Federal Law No. 34 of 2021 on countering Rumours and Cybercrimes.
The law stated that whoever uses the information network to announce, disseminate, re-disseminate, circulate, or recirculate news or data, or broadcasts any provocative news that would incite or provoke public opinion, disturb the public peace, spread terror among people, or cause harm to the public interest, the national economy, the public order, or the public health shall be punished with at least one year of imprisonment and a fine of not less than Dh100,000.
For the Nigerian community in Dubai, that singular incident was a signal to what would happen in days to come. The incident sent jitters down the spine of Nigerian immigrants in the Arab country and this was coming at a time Nigerians have issues securing jobs in the country.
In a statement, the NIDO UAE Group, while commending the Dubai authorities for swiftly bringing the matter under control, clarified that the illicit act does not represent what the country stands for.
“We the Nigerians In Diaspora Organization (NIDO) United Arab Emirates group which represents the interest of law abiding Nigerians in the UAE wish to express our profound gratitude and appreciation to the Dubai Police for their swift action in clamping down on the perpetrators of the disturbing video in the last 96 hours.
“We commend the Authority and we wish to state categorically that such illicit acts do not in any way define or represent us. We are good ambassadors, law abiding citizens and therefore, we distance ourselves from those miscreants. We assure the security agencies of our full support and cooperation if the need arises.”
Not satisfied with the clarification of the Nigerian community and as a further belt tightening measure to screen those coming into the country, Dubai has updated its visa requirements by including three new conditions.
There was an initial rumour about the suspension of visa application to Nigerians which was denied by the Nigerian community. It was gathered that the visa was showing pending on the visa status portal which indicates it was neither approved, nor rejected.
But the fear of the Nigerian community was confirmed when the Dubai authorities imposed fresh visa requirements for applicants.
As seen from the updated visa portal, there are three new Nigerian requirements mandatory for all visa applicants to provide.
These requirements are to be scanned and uploaded in the visa portal as provided to enable the applicant complete and submit visa application online.
The three updated requirements are Hotel reservation/place of stay in UAE, six-month Bank Statement and return flight ticket. While the UAE did not state any reason for the new requirement, it is believed the decision was taken to control the influx of individuals with criminal intent into the country.
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that the development is already causing uneasy calm in the travel industry as many travellers scramble to meet the new requirements. This may ultimately reduce visitors to the country for those who are unable to meet the new requirements.
The new requirements have been greeted with mixed feelings from stakeholders with the majority saying the development was a lesson to Nigerians to imbibe the habit of doing the right thing in accordance with the laws of their host countries.
Our correspondent reports that Dubai is one of the most frequently visited countries for business and tourism by Nigerians. About 200,000 Nigerians averagely visit the country annually either for business or tourism.
Before now, many Nigerians enjoyed the privilege of travelling to Dubai with very relaxed requirements until some Nigerians began to abuse the near free entry status granted to them, according to analysts.
This, they noted, would further hurt some Nigerians with legitimate reasons for going to Dubai. Among those to be affected are Nigerians in search of jobs in the Arab country.
“This development is good and also will prevent some fraudulent people coming in. But the point now is, they should allow us that have a visa inside the country work before it expires, please, so that we can pay our taxes and live peacefully. Please beg on our behalf,” said a Nigerian in search of jobs in Dubai.
According to the Director of Research and Strategy, Zenith Travels, Mr Olumide Ohunayo, the UAE as a country can impose any requirement it deems necessary in the interest of her country and the citizens.
He said, “Every country has the right to introduce some consular requirements to protect their country and ensure that eligible tourists, visitors or business men are those who come into their country.
“The UAE has been very relaxed with their visa. It is the most relaxed of the Middle East countries. Unfortunately, we have not behaved well. We have abused it. At a time, they stopped single ladies from coming except you are 40 and above.
“I have no objection to it. It is their country. They need to do what they need to do to safeguard other tourists apart from Nigerians and ensure that their country is protected.”
Our hands are tied – Travel agents
Speaking with our correspondent, the President of NANTA, Mrs Susan Akporiaye, also blamed Nigerians for the new requirements imposed by Dubai, saying the UAE authorities must have changed its entry rules due to abuse of the visa process.
She said while the travel agents are not happy with the development, everybody must learn to live by it.
She said, “They must have their reason. It’s a diplomatic thing. There is nothing anybody can do about it. We don’t know why they did that. Maybe they are not comfortable with what many Nigerians are doing. Maybe they did it due to an increase in crimes by Nigerians.
“Before then, we learnt that there was a situation where a policeman was killed. I don’t think it’s just that one incident. Maybe it is a compilation of different incidents that have been going on and probably from their investigation (I have not confirmed that), it seems to always be the Nigerian community perpetrating it, according to them. We have not confirmed this though. Everything is according to them. They have not officially released any report to the Nigeria Police to say that this is the percentage of Nigerians committing crimes.
“But then again, it is a diplomatic thing. Every country has a right to do whatever they want to do and we cannot question them. Are we happy about it? No. We are not but there is nothing we can do about it. It is their country; they determine how people come into their country.
“Sad enough. It is a lesson to us too that when people give us easy access, we should not abuse it. If you abuse the easy access, it will be taken away from you and you cannot fault them. You cannot go to another man’s house and determine how the man should operate in his own house.
“It’s a lesson for all of us. And enough of even going to another man’s country. Why don’t we all sit down here and see how to make things better for ourselves? Running away to other people’s country and doing business or for holidays are two different things. I am not saying people should not travel to do business neither am I saying people should not travel for holidays. Because if it’s just business and holiday, we won’t be where we are now. Because if it’s business, you will come back. If it is a holiday, you will come back and there’s absolutely no reason why UAE would change their rules.”
Mrs Akporiaye advised Nigerians visiting Dubai to do the right thing to avoid a situation where the UAE would further tighten the requirements, saying for those with legitimate businesses to carry out in Dubai, submitting their six-month bank statement shouldn’t be a problem.
She said, “The problem is those that go in the name of business and holiday and they don’t come back. It is not only UAE but every other country.
“So, there’s really nothing much to say than to just respect their decision. It’s not going to be easy; everybody has to adjust. And for those that have legitimate things to go and do, it shouldn’t be a problem.”
First published in Daily Trust