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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 impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) virus outbreak is likely to be high, as lower global travel will hurt the tourism industry in the United Arab Emirates and has depressed the global demand for oil. IHS Markit expects the real GDP to contract by 6.8% in 2020, down from 1.68% growth in 2019. This is likely to lead to a downgrading of existing construction projects – particularly in Dubai – and to significantly increase the rate of debt issuance across the Emirates.The UAE has established an extremely effective testing and tracing capacity across the emirates and it is unlikely that further lockdown measures will be imposed without a major increase in infection rates; Abu Dhabi closed COVID-19-specific field hospitals and cleared all private hospitals of COVID-19 cases in July.The consolidation of power by Abu Dhabi's 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 remains the US's most reliable security partner in the region, and increasing oil exports to Asia. The postponement of the Dubai Expo 2020 was likely a major embarrassment to the Al-Maktoum family and increases the likelihood of further monetary assistance being required from Abu Dhabi. The limited government reshuffle on 5 July maintains Al-Nahyan’s control of key portfolios, but indicates that Dubai’s economic model is straining federal finances.There is a high risk of Iranian attacks on Emirati marine and aviation energy assets following the US killing of Iran's Qods Force General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on 3 January. Without a definite promise of US support, it is very unlikely that the UAE's leadership would commit to military escalation or retaliation. Limited outreach with Iran on coastguard issues in the Gulf are probably attempts to reduce the Ansar Allah’s' stated willingness to target strategic Emirati infrastructure.
Last update: August 7, 2020

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: June 26, 2020

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: July 16, 2020

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 affected.

It is highly likely that all public spaces and entrances at international airports will be monitored, with access heavily dependent on presentation of biometric passes and facial recognition scanners, allowing the identification of any potential visitors that are blacklisted by the GCC and international security agencies. Mobile phone communication across all networks is likely to be under close state surveillance, in line with existing UAE counter-terrorism legislation, reducing the likelihood of disruptive behavior or of terror attacks being successfully organised.

The country has attracted criticism from human rights groups over its human trafficking and child labour violations. Prostitution is outlawed but remains widespread; 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: July 16, 2020

War Risks

Attempts by the UAE to de-escalate the risk of military confrontation with Iran in the Gulf are likely to be successful outside 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. IHS Markit assesses that likely Iranian and Houthi aggression in 2019, targeting maritime, hydrocarbon, and aviation targets in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, demonstrated that the UAE is unlikely to openly oppose Iran in the Gulf, preferring to negotiate, without the explicit backing from the US of direct military support, raising the risk of escalation and full-scale confrontation. .

Last update: July 3, 2020

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. State surveillance systems were deployed to track cases of COVID-19 in the Emirates, and the relatively low death rate means that it is very unlikely that any protests against government containment measures will take place. The government effectively classifies all forms of dissent against the state as acts of terrorism. Political activists instead will probably concentrate on lobbying the government through tribal Majlis and Diwaniyas with a portion of Islamist opposition supporters opting to adopt jihadist causes instead.

Last update: July 3, 2020

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