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By Isabel Ovalle
DOHA: The Home Affairs Committee of the British parliament will make a case to grant Qatari citizens exemption from visas to enter Britain. The chair of the Committee, Keith Vaz (pictured), who was in Doha yesterday, plans to take this proposal to parliament after a tour of the region.
Three British members of parliament are in the Gulf to compile information about counterterrorism measures taken by Qatar, and to address immigration issues at visa hubs in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which they will visit in the following days.
Speaking to The Peninsula, Vaz said, “visas are also an issue for our committee, and during our stay, a number of Qataris have raised the issue.” He said the UK visa process was very good, “However, there is no doubt that it’s too slow.”
The committee will take this issue to the British home secretary and parliament because “the last thing in the world we want is people not wanting to come to the UK because it takes too long to get a visa,” stated the parliamentarian.
The British Embassy in Doha recently implemented a fast track visa system, but with 70 percent of the applicants using the fast track system, it becomes slow.
“One of the first things I’ll do when I get to the visa hub in Abu Dhabi is make a strong case for additional support to be given to the embassy here,” stated the MP, acknowledging that “I didn’t have to queue up for a visa to come to Qatar; I arrived and it was obtained at the airport.”
In view of this, he said, “there is a case to look at the issue of exempting Qataris from visas, but this has to be done very carefully, for good and valid reasons.”
Vaz underlined that every country had to protect itself in terms of whom it let in. Nevertheless, “it seems clear to me that, having seen the situation here in Qatar, people actually want to come to visit the UK and then come back. It is clear Qataris go for tourism, health and studies. We’ll make a strong case because there are very few examples of abuse,” he added.
During their stay in Doha, the parliamentarians visited the Qatar International Academy for Security Studies. “We found it extremely useful. It’s the only one of its kind in the world in the fight against terrorism. It’s terribly important and, therefore, it has been good to see it,” Vaz said.