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Despite security concerns from the US, a recent audit of Qatar’s Hamad International has found it to be one of the safest airports in the world, officials said.

The results come amid an indefinite ban on laptops and tablets onboard flights from Doha and nine other Middle Eastern cities to the US.

The US Department of Homeland Security said the move was made in response to concerns about potential terrorist attacks.

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However, Qatar apparently scored highly in a February audit by the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO).

According to the Ministry of Interior (MOI), here are some of the scores Qatar received from the ICAO’s Universal Security Audit Program (USAP):

  • 99.1 percent for protecting aviation against unlawful interference (i.e terrorism and smuggling);
  • 96.76 percent for implementing safety management; and
  • 100 percent in a section that related to customs and immigration processes.

The USAP results “proved that HIA is one of the safest airports in the world,” the head of the Qatar Aviation Authority (QCAA) said.

Caveats

However, it is difficult to assess how Qatar measured up against other nations.

This is because results of ICAO security audits are usually kept secret.

Speaking to Doha News, a representative from the organization said, “we cannot make public or otherwise confirm anything to do with security audit findings.”

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In the past, only a few nations have chosen to share their scores with the public.

In November 2015 for example, Indian aviation authorities disclosed that they had been given scores of 99.23 percent and 99.59 per cent in two ICAO audit areas.

And in April 2016, Nigerian authorities said they had scored an average of 96 percent in a similar audit.

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Qatar’s MOI did not respond to requests for more details about the country’s scores or world ranking.

Another notable fact about the audits is that countries are given at least four months notice before they are conducted.

And they have the opportunity to accept or reject suggested audit dates, according to USAP guidelines.

Significant improvement

Still, the average of the three scores shared by Qatar officials – 98.6 percent – is a big improvement from the nation’s 2012 overall score of 78.76 percent.

That was when flights were still departing from Doha International Airport.

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Ministry of Interior office at Hamad International Airport

Speaking to QNA, Director of Airport Security Brig. Essa Arar Al Rumaihi credited the higher score to a combination of better training and an investment in new technology over the past five years.

HIA has has apparently trained more than 1,000 security personnel since it opened in 2014.

It has also purchased new “inspection” devices that airport officials say will speed up the movement of passengers through security checkpoints.

More details about these devices have not been shared, but officials said that they were being used “for the first time in the world” at HIA.

A ‘smart airport’

Meanwhile, officials continue to work on introducing a “smart traveler” system at the airport, plans for which were announced last year.

The goal is to automate almost all processes at the airport, from bag weighing to boarding pass printing to e-gates and boarding the aircraft.

Speaking about the plans this week, Airport Security Department director Brig Essa Arrar al-Rumaihi said:

“The vision is that travelers can complete all travel procedures electronically without any human interference.”

The move should help with wait times at the over-capacity airport, as well as reduce costs for operators.

Immigration queues

Among the new processes is e-gate, which fast-tracks residents through immigration. This service was rolled out free of charge to adults living in Qatar late last year.

According to airport officials, making it free has caused many more people to avail of the service in the past several months.

But because it is not open to children, some travelers still face lengthy waits at immigration.

Thoughts?

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In the coming weeks, hundreds of young expats will graduate from Qatar’s universities. Many will grapple with visa and employment questions.

Oma Seddiq at the Daily Q, Northwestern University in Qatar’s student publication, has put together some advice to help these seniors with their transition out of school.

It is aimed specifically at those departing Qatar Foundation colleges, but we’ve added in some information for Qatar University students, too.

If you’re graduating in Qatar soon, here’s what you need to know:

1) If you’re on a student visa, your residency permit will expire soon.

Once you graduate, new alumni of Qatar Foundation usually have about three months to cancel their RPs or transfer their sponsorship to an employer or other entity.

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Qatar ID card

Notably, for QU students, international students only have five days to cancel their RPs after graduation, according to the university’s website.

However, graduating students should contact the school immediately after completing final exams to convey whether they want to cancel or transfer their RPs.

2) If you cancel your RP, you must leave Qatar within seven days.

Canceling will require submitting your Qatar ID and passport to your coordinator.

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Remember that if you own a vehicle, you must transfer that ownership registration to another resident and pay all traffic fines before canceling.

Here’s a checklist of some other requirements expats must meet before canceling their RPs, including closing out bank accounts, credit cards and loans.

3) Transferring your sponsorship will require an NOC from QF.

You won’t be able to get this until you present copies of your QID, passport, employment contract and employer’s valid computer card.

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You will also need to clear all outstanding dues with QF’s finance department. Once you get the NOC, your employer will complete the process.

4) EC Graduates need to clear out of their dorms by May 11.

Departing seniors can stay in HBKU housing for an extra week after graduation, but need to have emailed Housing and Residence Life already to get that extension.

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

HBKU residence halls

It will cost additional fees to stay longer, including in the summer.

What advice would you add? Thoughts?

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Petrol prices in Qatar will remain unchanged next month, government officials have announced.

For the second month in a row, premium petrol (91-octane) will cost QR1.60/liter in May.

And 95-octane super gasoline will also remain at the current prices of QR1.70/liter, the Ministry of Energy and Industry said today.

MEI

May 2017 petrol prices

Additionally, diesel will hold steady for the first time after five consecutive increases at QR1.60/liter.

Relief?

The May prices will likely come as a relief to some motorists, who saw the cost of petrol go up for five consecutive months from November 2016 to March 2017.

But the news may disappoint others, as the price of fuel has yet to drop once this year.

Since Qatar first began fluctuating fuel prices last June, they have increased more than 30 percent for petrol.

Diesel has also seen a 10 percent jump.

Thoughts?

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

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Qatar will not be instituting any bans on certain produce from Arab countries, as the UAE has recently announced plans to do.

But some consignments of produce will meet increased scrutiny when it comes into the country, local officials have said.

In a circular sent to ports across Qatar, the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) ordered that shipments of fruits and vegetables from Lebanon, Oman, Egypt and Jordan only be released after undergoing a pesticide analysis, the Peninsula reports.

The move comes after the UAE announced this week that it would soon be banning produce from those four countries, as well as Yemen.

What’s banned

Effective May 15, the UAE has blacklisted these products for having unacceptably high levels of pesticide:

  • All varieties of peppers from Egypt;
  • Peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, squash, beans and aubergine from Jordan;
  • Apples from Lebanon;
  • Melons, carrots and watercress from Oman; and
  • All types of fruit from Yemen.

Any other produce from these countries will be accepted if they are certified to have met certain standards, UAE officials said.

The announcement has raised concerns about increased prices for produce in the Emirates, but also drew praise for protecting residents.

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

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For its part, Qatar’s MOPH has demurred on instituting any blanket bans.

In a statement this week, it instead emphasized the strong measures it has in place to ensure the safety of food imports.

The ministry added that 510 samples of produce were tested for insecticides during the first quarter of this year.

Only some 67 of them were rejected due to high levels of the chemicals.

Ray Toh

A farm in Qatar.

As a desert nation, Qatar imports the vast majority of its food. However, it has been decreasing its reliance in recent years.

For example, a 2015 government report stated that the country grew nearly 24 percent of the fruits and vegetables consumed in Qatar in 2013. That’s up from 15 percent in 2009.

Thoughts?