Thursday, December 30, 2010

New UAE visa charges hit Canadian travellers

Canada's Conservative government is under fire from Liberal Opposition critics on home soil after the UAE Embassy in Ottawa announced new visa charges of up to C$1,000 (Dh3,660) for Canadian visitors to the UAE.
Formerly free for Canadians, UAE visas must now be paid and applied for in writing to the UAE Embassy in Ottawa two weeks in advance of entering the UAE.The new paid visas are mandatory effective January 2.

The new visa regulations were first announced in early November, as Canadian troops were vacating Camp Mirage.
Dubai expelled hundreds of Canadian troops from a semi-secret military base on its soil earlier this fall. The Canadian military had enjoyed rent-free access to Camp Mirage for the past nine years. The base served as a key transit point for troops shuttling to and from Afghanistan. Relocating to a new base may cost more than $300 million.
 At the time the U.A.E.'s ambassador to Canada, Mohamed Abdulla Al Ghafli, told the Canadian Press that the decision to institute visa fees was "based on a policy of reciprocity." Weeks later, the U.A.E.'s economic minister, Sultan Al Mansouri, said that Canada's relationship with his country had been "destroyed" by the airline dispute and by remarks made by Canadian officials.
"There have been some statements made from the Canadian side, which were sometimes very fiery statements," Al Mansouri was quoted as saying in Abu Dhabi's The National newspaper. "This is not the way relationships between two countries are handled." In late November, then transport minister John Baird defended how Ottawa handled the landing-rights negotiations, arguing that "literally tens of thousands of jobs" were at risk at home.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is being accused of damaging formerly strong ties with an important Middle East ally by refusing additional landing rights for the UAE's two major airlines, Emirates and Etihad.The airlines asked for more than the current six flights a week to Canada but were rejected.In a previous statement, Abdullah Al Gafi, UAE Ambassador to Canada, said failure to reach a new agreement "undoubtedly affects the bilateral statement".