Amidst the ongoing crisis, Qatar announced a programme to allow entry sans visa for citizens of 80 countries. The programme was introduced to boost air transport and tourism despite the two-month boycott imposed on the country by its neighbors.
India, New Zealand, South Africa and United States are among the 80 countries allowed. The citizens of these countries would only need to carry a valid passport to enter this Gulf nation. Nationals of 33 countries will be allowed to stay for 180 days and the other 47 for up to 30 days.
With Qatar hosting the soccer World Cup in 2022, the introduction of the programme comes at an opportune time. Although, Qatar's World Cup Organizing Committee has said that the Arab sanctions will not affect the World Cup preparations.
"The visa exemption scheme will make Qatar the most open country in the region," Hassan al-Ibrahim, Chief Tourism Development Officer at Qatar Tourism Authority told reporters at a press conference in Doha.
Qatar was boycotted by the Gulf state of Saudi Arabia along with some others like Egypt, Bahrain on June 5. All transport links with the country were closed off after accusing it of supporting terrorism and of close ties to Iran.
Doha, however, denied the allegations. Subsequent to the boycott, Qatar actively started working on building ties with countries beyond the Gulf region. The scheme is the latest in the series of steps taken in that direction.
The food supplies are flown in from Turkey and Iran while the construction material is being shipped in via Oman. Visitors from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council usually account for almost half of all visitors to Qatar.
Qatar Airways saw a downfall of 25 percent, with four Arab states suspending their air links with the gas-rich country.
Recently, Qatar approved legislation permitting certain permanent residents to benefit from parts of the state's welfare system, including education and health-care services. Under the law, children of Qatari women married to foreigners and people with special skills "needed by the state," can benefit from the new status.
Foreign workers from countries including India and Nepal comprise of 90 percent of Qatar's population of 2.7 million.
Information source: reuters
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