Qatar tourism official says no visas for Egyptians, describes them as ‘enemies’

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An event that was meant to promote a summer tourism campaign in Qatar took an interesting turn when the country’s secretary-general of the National Tourism Council, Akbar al-Baker, described the Egyptian people as “enemies”, announcing that they will not be given entry visas anymore, while simultaneously calling on residents to invite their friends and family on visa-free summer visits.

“We are open, as you already see I have made an announcement that we will even attract families and friends of people that live in Qatar and make for them visa-free arrival program at Mohammed International Airport,” al-Baker said.

Al-Baker later went on to say: “The visa will not be open for our enemies - it will be open for our friends,” al-Baker said of Egyptians looking to come. “Are visas open for us to go there? No. So why should we open it for them? Everything is reciprocal.”

In 2017, Egypt announced the end of visas upon arrival for Qatari nationals, not a complete ban. They also announced an exemption from this for Qatari nationals with Egyptian mothers, those married to Egyptians, and Qataris studying in Egypt.

Qatar has not said it would deport Egyptian residents already in the country and the comments did not suggest a policy shift that could endanger their status.

A 2017 report by a private consultancy estimated Egyptian residents at 200,000, making up the largest Arab minority in Qatar. They have remained and make up a sizable portion of the tiny but wealthy country’s workforce.

While Qatar has a population of around 2.7 million, just over 300,000 are nationals, and it does not publish statistics breaking down the population by nationality.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar in 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorism. Doha denies the allegation.

Al-Baker said Qatar would not let Egyptians enter the country to take part in promotions aimed at boosting its tourism industry.
He added that this is the first time that the country launches a summer tourism promotion “of this magnitude”.

The comments were the first by a Qatari official since the nearly two-year rift began suggesting Qatar would no longer grant visas to people from Egypt, the most populous Arab country.

Many Egyptians say the visa process has been effectively closed to them since 2017, with narrow exceptions made for the immediate family members of residents and for specifically approved events.

“When you open your arms to Qatar, Qatar will open its arms even bigger for you. But if you become an adversary of Qatar, then we will also treat you as an adversary,” al-Baker said.

- With Reuters