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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

‘Coming Home to Qatar’ network mobilises for cross-community support as residents await entry permits


A Facebook group set up to communicate helpful information about Qatar’s ‘Exceptional Entry Permit’ process has surpassed a staggering 10,000 subscribers as community members rally to support one another amid a stressful waiting period.

Thousands of Qatar residents have joined a community-run Facebook group providing up-to-date information and support from members attempting to get back into the country, as concerns over the EEP remain unanswered.

The online page, which boasts some 10,000 users that provide moral support, comfort and assistance through sharing their personal experiences, was created shortly after authorities in August announced Resident Permit [RP] holders would need to apply for an [EEP] to return to the country.

While lots of people have been able to obtain the EEP to enter Qatar without issues, many residents and families have been stuck outside the country with no knowledge of whether their EEP’s have been approved or not. Meanwhile, others have been told that their EEP’s have been rejected without further explanation.

Doha News spoke with various group members to hear how the network has been of help to them during this trying time.

“I left Qatar in March to visit a sick family member and have been stuck outside of the country since. I have applied for an EEP twice and both have been rejected with no real reason why. It has been comforting to read experiences of people in the same position as me. This situation can feel isolating. As people message in the group to say they have received their entry permits, we share in their joy. The group gives me encouragement to stay positive and patient knowing I will get back home eventually,” Tomasz, a resident from Thailand told Doha News.

“The most amazing thing about this group is that we are all strangers supporting each other simply out of kindness and concern”

The group has been joined by a range of people from across the world, including families that have been separated for months and left without updates from authorities.

Nahid, a resident from Bangladesh said his wife and children, have been stuck at home for 7 months while awaiting visa approval.

“I have been extremely stressed as there doesn’t seem to be logic to the selection system so there is no way of knowing when the visas will be approved. Hearing from other people in the group in a similar situation to me has helped my mental health as I am really desperately missing my family.”

Angela, a resident from Germany who was stuck outside of Qatar with her newborn said she was outside the country when her Qatar ID had expired.

“My husband was in Qatar and I had heard so much conflicting information about what is required for my baby who didn’t have a RP upon arrival. We were becoming very anxious about arriving at the airport and not being able to board our flight. I contacted the group and was inundated with comments from other people travelling with newborns reassuring me of the process and that I would be ok.”

Mohammed is another resident who sought advice from the group.

“My family and I were returning from a high risk country with children and needed to undergo the required hotel quarantine upon arrival. We were very concerned about the hotel room facilities as there are many of us in my family with different dietary needs.

“Without even having to ask, I checked in the group and someone had filmed their room and taken pictures of the food they received. This really helped ease a lot of stress when travelling with a young family.”

EEP’s must be approved before returning to Qatar

Amy, a teacher from the UK who recently moved to Qatar, praised the group of strangers.

“The most amazing thing about this group is that we are all strangers supporting each other simply out of kindness and concern for one another. Qatar really does have the best and most supportive expat community,” she said.

Kamil, a single man from high-risk country, India, said he was surprised to finally get his EEP.

“It seemed like the odds were stacked against me – priority seemed to be going to families. I managed to keep motivated by seeing others in the group finally receiving EEP’s after multiple attempts. I was convinced I was doing something wrong. I don’t know what I would have done without the support from the community urging me to stay persistent and keep the faith.”

Read Also: Just an application number’: Frustrated residents left stranded over new Exceptional Entry Permit

While the government has worked to provide relevant information for returning residents on several official websites, first-hand experiences at times provide a little more ease.

Sophie a mother of three from the USA said she initially reached out over concerns she had.

“I felt so silly because the thing I was most worried about was the swab tests for my three young children. I simply asked the group what their experience of tests on their young ones was like and within minutes gained so much support from people who really helped put my mind at ease.

“Sometimes it’s the little things that worry us the most and as a parent it was great to feel like there is a space where I could receive this information without judgement, everyone is so helpful and just genuinely wants the best for each other,” she told Doha News.

In August it was estimated that more than 250,000 residents were abroad and waiting to return to Qatar. The aim of the EEP system is to stagger their return in order to reduce the risk of a spike in coronavirus numbers.

Doha News has contacted the Government Communications Office for comment but is yet to receive a response.

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