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Country Reports

United Arab Emirates Country Report

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Risk Level

Low
Moderate
Elevated
High
Very High
Severe
Extreme

Overview

Executive Summary

The consolidation of power by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan means that there are unlikely to be significant shifts in domestic policy for the UAE, ensuring that the UAE de-escalates the potential threat of military confrontation with Iran in the Gulf while remaining the US's most reliable security partner in the region, and increasing oil exports to Asia. There is an elevated risk of politically motivated incidents involving temporary seizure of commercial vessels in international waters near the Hormuz Strait. Abu Dhabi is likely to be more resistant than Saudi Arabia in ending the diplomatic and trade boycott of Qatar into 2020.The decision to reduce an operational footprint in Yemen in July 2019 and limited outreach with Iran on coastguard issues in the Gulf are probably attempts to reduce the Houthis' stated willingness to target strategic Emirati infrastructure, and de-escalate the risk of sudden war with Iran targeting the UAE's airports and hydrocarbon infrastructure. Well-paid security forces, an extensive civil surveillance network in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and minimal tolerance for religious extremism reduce the probability of successful jihadist attacks. IHS Markit assesses that the UAE economy will strengthen in 2019 given fiscal stimulus in the two largest emirates, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Abu Dhabi's USD13.6-billion stimulus package is likely to boost 2020 non-oil activity, while Dubai's preparations to host Expo 2020 drive investment in infrastructure and development projects. UAE policy measures aim to promote key non-oil sectors and attract investment to curb the country's oil dependence and create jobs, with new incentives offering 10-year residency visas for foreign investors and professionals (in medical, scientific, and technical fields) and permitting 100% foreign ownership of companies from June 2019. The continued development of the non-oil sector – which accounts for approximately 70% of GDP – reduces UAE's exposure to oil-market volatility.
Last update: December 10, 2019

Operational Outlook

The UAE has an advanced transportation infrastructure and local governments rely on large-scale infrastructure investments to stimulate growth. Bureaucracy is an obstacle in the northern emirates, although it is reduced if businesses are located in free-trade zones and also if partnered with influential local actors. The UAE is highly dependent on foreign labour and the risk of sporadic labour unrest is most often linked to non-payment of wages and, occasionally, poor working conditions. The threat of deportation remains a significant deterrent against strike action.

Last update: December 28, 2018

Terrorism

Moderate

The UAE's participation in the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen against the Houthi Movement and anti-Islamic State coalition makes it a target for attacks, with well-secured airports, ports, and energy facilities being probable aspirational targets. The risk of militant attacks is moderate and likely to rise, with increasing capabilities demonstrated by Yemen's Houthi Movement threats in 2019 to strike UAE assets. Well-paid security forces, stringent selection criteria, an extensive civil surveillance network in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and minimal tolerance for religious extremism reduce the likelihood of successful attacks, with the most likely scenario being low-capability attacks targeting Western expatriates or security forces in public spaces.

Last update: December 14, 2019

Crime

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a regional hub for organised criminal cartels, although their activity is generally focused outwards and it does not have a direct impact on broader security risks in the country. Authorities have identified financial crime and drug smuggling as particular issues to be addressed, with Dubai and surrounding Emirates most severely affected. The country has attracted criticism from human rights groups over its human trafficking and child labour violations. Prostitution is outlawed but remains widespread; the sex trade in the UAE is typically linked to human-trafficking networks. Most reported crimes occur among the expatriate majority, rather than foreign companies or the Emirati minority.

Last update: December 12, 2019

War Risks

The UAE's military is a small but well-equipped force capable of conducting limited, complex operations in defence of the UAE and abroad. However, the GCC's minimal collective combat experience and low threshold for citizen casualties will ensure the United States remains a considerably more important security guarantor for the UAE than other Gulf states. Attempts by the UAE to de-escalate the risk of military confrontation with Iran in the Gulf are likely to be successful outside of a conflict between the US and Iran. There is an elevated risk of contained naval incidents near non-demarcated waters with the UAE while Iran remains under US sanctions.

Last update: December 14, 2019

Social Stability

Low

The state's zero-tolerance for dissent, including online, presents a low risk of business disruption from political or social activism, particularly political Islam. The government effectively classifies all forms of dissent against the state as acts of terrorism. Cash hand-outs and a generous welfare system reduce the risk of economically motivated unrest taking hold. Political activists instead will probably concentrate on lobbying the government through tribal Majlis and Diwaniyas (traditional social public gatherings hosted by tribal leaders including senior officials and rulers), with a portion of Islamist opposition supporters opting to adopt jihadist causes instead.

Last update: December 14, 2019

Health Risk

Elevated

Vaccinations required to enter the country

No vaccinations are required to enter the country.

Routine Vaccinations

Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.

Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.

Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).

Other Vaccinations

Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).

Rabies: For prolonged stays in an isolated region (for children from when they can walk).

For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Natural Risks

Very high

Finally, it should be noted that dehydration is a significant risk during the summer due to extreme temperatures. Summer also often brings sand storms and floods, such as the floods that struck Abu Dhabi in April 2011. This severe weather is not rare. In 2014, several cities in central and northern UAE were hit by floods, mostly due to insufficient or failing drainage infrastructure.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Transportation

Moderate

Dubai international airport is considered to be one of the most important in the world, with one of the highest number of yearly passengers (80 million in 2015). It serves 260 destinations on all continents, thanks to Emirates Airline.

Al Maktoum airport is the secondary airport in the city and mainly serves Cargo flights.

Abu Dhabi international airport is expanding with Etihad airways, Emirates Airline's rival.  

All flights to and from Qatar have been suspended since June 6, 2017, until further notice due to a diplomatic rift.

The US government has announced that passengers flying non-stop to the United States from the UAE will be banned from transporting any electronic device larger than a standard-sized smartphone (16 cm x 9.3 cm x 1.5 cm / 6.3 in x 3.5 in x 0.6 in) in carry-on luggage. This includes laptops, tablets, e-readers, cameras, DVD players, and video games, which will have to be stowed in checked luggage for the duration of the flight.

Luggage is strictly controlled at the airport. French diplomatic authorities recommend to their citizens that Emirati authorities have the power to accept or decline entrance to foreigners. Many French nationals have been declined entrance to the UAE (even in Dubai) by border police and have been sent back to their country of origin. No explanation is provided to travelers sent back to their country of origin. However, it is part of preemptive counterterrorism measures taken by local authorities. The road network is very good, however driving could be dangerous. Car accidents are frequent due to bad habits of drivers and dangerous driving, especially by youth on Thursday and Friday evenings due to speeding   and animals crossing the road. Authorities are very strict with regards to traffic laws. Automatic radar traps are widely used and fines can be expensive. The UAE has a "zero tolerance" policy on drinking and driving.

If going off-road in the desert, it is advised against going alone. Inform someone of your itinerary, check your vehicle, be sure to have means of communication, mechanic tools, and enough fuel and water. In general, rental cars do not have insurance for going off-road.

Taxis are available in major cities and are trustworthy. They all have a metric system. Uber is available throughout the country.

Emirates Express buses connect Dubai and Abu Dhabi, with departures every 40 minutes between Al-Ghubaibah (Dubai) and Hazza bin Zayed terminal (Abu Dhabi). The travel time is around 2 hours. The Al Ghazal bus company also connects Dubai to Sharjah.

Travel by sea is possible, however the waters in the Gulf are politically sensitive. Some areas are forbidden to access. Coast Guard patrols are frequent. It is important to have your passport at all times. 

Last update: April 5, 2019

Practical Information

Climate

The UAE has an arid-subtropical climate and is characterized by high temperatures and low levels of rainfall.

Summers are very hot and humid and winters are generally mild. From December to March temperatures range between 10°C and 30°C and can climb as high as 48°C with humidity rates of 100% in the summer.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +971
Police: 999
Fire Dept.: 999
Ambulance: 999

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

Last update: April 5, 2019