At least three schools are introducing identification checks for visitors as part of increased security procedures following an alert issued by the US Embassy in Doha last month.
While the schools say no specific threat has been made against western nationals in Qatar, the new arrangements come after the US Embassy’s warning to “remain vigilant” after an anonymous posting on an extremist website mentioned potential attacks against teachers in the Middle East.
DBS said it is rolling out an official ID card system similar to that already in use by the American School of Doha (ASD).
Parents and regular school visitors have been asked to bring in photographs and will be issued official passes in the coming weeks, which must be shown to gain entry to the school.
Meanwhile, at the beginning of last week, Doha College (DC) started asking visitors to show their Qatar ID cards when dropping off and collecting children at both of its campuses.
In a letter to the school community explaining the new procedures, DC’s facilities, health and safety manager Nicolas Milne said:
“It has been agreed that all visitors, including parents must show a valid photo ID at the security checkpoint before access will be granted. Please ensure that you bring along a valid ID when coming to drop off or pick up students, attending prearranged appointments or events.
Although we want everybody to feel welcome and for the college to be approachable, access will be denied to anyone who does not present an ID upon request from the security team.”
Another British school, Doha English Speaking School (DESS), has told parents that it would also be rolling out an ID card checking system, effective next week.
The school’s health and safety officer Nicola Murray said in a letter: “Although the British Foreign Office assure us that there is no increase in security risk, we felt it prudent to review and update our security procedures.”
She said extra security staff have been brought in to patrol the school during the day and two of the school gates would be closed for use at least on a temporary basis.
In addition, all visitors to the school – including parents, nannies and drivers – would be required to show their Qatar ID cards, while visiting relatives must display their passports to security staff. Security staff may also undertake bag searches at their discretion.
Last month, several schools told parents that they were reviewing security procedures, and DESS told its parents that it would equip its security guards with metal detectors.
“None of this is intended to be intrusive – we just want to put safety first and foremost, especially for the children,” DESS business manager Neil Macfarlane wrote in a letter to parents at the time.
It is understood that International School of London (ISL) also has enhanced ID checks for its visitors, but this was instituted long before the US Embassy alert. The same applies for ASD.
The additional measures have been welcomed by some parents, but others have called them window dressing.
While the British Foreign Office has not updated its Qatar-related travel advice since the end of October, it does warn nationals of an “underlying threat from terrorism.”
In a statement, a British Embassy in Doha spokesperson told Doha News:
“It (the travel advice) was recently updated as there is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.”
Just days after Saudi Arabia said it sentenced 27 people to jail time for plotting an attack on members of the US armed forces based here and in Kuwait, the US Embassy in Doha issued a statement warning of a potential threat to US teachers in the region.
The embassy said that the website post specifically referenced the city of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and a neighborhood in Egypt (Maadi) that has an American school as “examples of locations with high concentrations of potential targets.”
“The Embassy is unaware of any specific, credible threat against any American or western school or individuals in Qatar. The Embassy works closely with the Government of Qatar to promote the security of U.S. citizens…
Nonetheless, all US citizens should remain vigilant regarding their personal security and alert to local security developments.
Following the statement, ASD announced it had strengthened its “security posture,” beefing up procedures on campus and in teachers’ accommodation. It asked parents to prominently display their school-issued ID cards while on campus.
The deans of some colleges in Education City also alerted their communities to the statement, and advised them to continue to be alert to their surroundings.
They said they were working with the US Embassy to review security conditions on campus as well as in residences for student, staff and faculty although no further details of these new procedures have been revealed.