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Friday, September 18, 2020

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

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Qatar residents have been left stranded abroad and unable to return home to their families and jobs, as complaints over the new Exceptional Entry Permit continue to increase.

Qatari authorities in August announced resident permit [RP] holders could apply for an ‘Exceptional Entry Permit’ [EEP] to return to the country. Precautions such as home quarantine for those coming from designated low-risk countries, as well as hotel quarantine for those coming from other destinations were put in place to help mitigate the risk of the spread of COVID-19.

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. 

In some instances, residents have either lost their jobs or are in danger of doing so due to the EEP’s not being approved by the government. While they have applied on multiple occasions, they have either been outright rejected or forced to play the waiting game weeks after submitting applications.

Amina [an alias] and her husband have been stranded in Istanbul for almost two weeks after applying for their EEP at their own expense. The Romanian nationals are unable to return to Qatar because their country is not on the list of low-risk nations, leaving the couple in limbo until they find out whether their EEP has been approved. 

“Everyday is a pain and struggle while waiting”

“This course of action is impacting lives severely in most cases, with families stranded or separated, people cannot come to their homes where they continue to pay rent, to their wives and kids, to schools and jobs!” Amina told Doha News. 

Another family returning from Canada told Doha News they had taken COVID-19 tests prior to flying into Qatar, as per regulations, but were shocked to find their negative test results rejected at Hamad International Airport.

“I showed them [the test] but the front line staff was either unaware or was told to carry out tests regardless. It’s inconvenient because my child hates the test and has to repeat it here too,” the mother told Doha News. 

Mohammed [an alias] has been trying to bring his wife and child back to Qatar for almost a month now. Having applied to the EEP for his family on August 1, he received approval for his wife on the same day, but not for his daughter, whose approval came two weeks later on Aug 15th. By then, his wife’s EEP return date had expired, and despite re-applying and contacting authorities several times, he was finally informed of an error in the system for those re-applying for permits.

After doing all this stressful work, I still cannot bring my family. I don’t know what to tell them when they ask me when they can come back. Everyday is a pain and struggle while waiting for a response,” Mohammed told Doha News. 

Isabella’s husband had to leave Qatar only a month after she had given birth to her baby and couldn’t return due to the airport closure. After five months of being apart, she decided to travel to Italy to reunite. Since the EEP applications opened, she has received approval for her return to Qatar, however, the EEP’s for her husband and eight-month-old baby have not been approved. Because of this, and as the expiration date for her EEP looms closer, she is being forced to return to Qatar and leave her husband and baby behind.

“This situation is not acceptable and neither can it be considered human”

“This situation is not acceptable and neither can it be considered human,” she told Doha News. “Their aim was to support families not to separate them over and over again.” 

In August it was estimated that more than 250,000 residents were abroad and waiting to come back 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. However it seems that the system is far from organised, with little clarity being given to those whose applications are rejected or remain pending, moreover it appears there’s little in the way of consideration when it comes to family circumstances.

Meanwhile, expired permits have also led to a number of EEP’s being rejected. While the Ministry of Interior has provided fee concessions if RP’s expire, authorities have yet to make clarify how residents with expired RP’s will be allowed to re-enter and what procedures they’d need to take.

Read also: When will we be able to travel? The confusion isn’t helping.

To date, the Ministry of Interior has not made a statement about the back-log of EEPs awaiting approval or what criteria are being used for approvals. 

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


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