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Tue 19 Feb 2008 12:10 PM

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UAE drug arrests surge in 2007

British Embassy urges its tourists to be aware of strict, zero-tolerance drug laws when traveling to the UAE.

The number of British tourists arrested for drug possession on arrival to the UAE has surged, the British Embassy in Dubai warned on Monday.

Simon Goldsmith, media affairs spokesperson, British Embassy in Dubai, said there is a need for more awareness of the strict UAE drug laws among the country’s visitors.

“We need to raise awareness of drugs, that there's a zero tolerance policy and you can go to prison for four years,” Goldsmith told UAE daily Gulf News.

There were 59 British citizens arrested in the UAE on drug-related charges in 2007, according to the British Foreign Office.

These include Keith Brown who was jailed for four years after 0.003 grams of cannabis was found in the tread of his shoe, and British Radio 1 DJ Raymond Bingham, who was sentenced to four years jail on Tuesday, after he was caught with 2.16 grams of cannabis in November.

The UAE’s drug laws are severe, despite its more liberal reputation among the Gulf nations, and strict rules stipulate imprisonment for a minimum of four years followed by deportation for those convicted of drug possession.

People convicted of drugs trafficking can face capital punishment, although executions rarely take place.

The warning from the British embassy follows a similar urgent caution from legal aid organization Fair Trials International earlier this month.

Catherine Wolthuizen, chief executive at Fair Trials International, said the group had also noticed a steep increase in UAE drug charges against tourists over the last 18 months.

“Customs authorities are using highly sensitive new equipment to conduct extremely thorough searches on travellers and if they find any amount, no matter how minute, it will be enough to attract a mandatory 4 year prison sentence.”

Wolthuizen said many travellers did not realise they could be charged for possession of banned substances if they are detected in urine or bloodstream, or from tiny amounts on their person.

Over a million British visitors are believed to have travelled to the UAE in 2007, while more than 100,000 British nationals are resident there.

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Valerie Houghton 11 years ago

Zero tolerance of drugs in the UAE and the continued enforcement of this law is one of the best ways to ensure the superior quality of life enjoyed by most everyone. For those who want to do drugs, go someplace else and use them but stay way from here. We don't need chemicals to make us high here, we live the high life already. We don't need the crime, broken lives and sorrow that follows along the path of drug use. Stay in your own country and enjoy your drugs there.

Louise Britton 11 years ago

Dear Ms Houghton, I agree with you to a certain extent but if you speak to the embassies and if you look at the wider picture you will see that there innocent people languishing in the UAE's prisons for crimes such as carrying poppy seeds and standing on cannabis joints. We may be lucky because of our nationality but please spare a thought for the innocent people and get on with your 'superior' life.

w 11 years ago

Dubai is abusing its drug laws on foreigners, they cannot arrest an individual for having drugs in the treads of his shoe. This is absurd. And the British Embassy should do something about this and not sit quiet supporting them saying that they are strict with drugs. This is plain wrong. If caught with a significant amount of drugs, i can understand, however, traces, that's plain wrong.