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Tue 12 Aug 2008 01:28 AM

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UAE officials arrested 230 Brits last year

New anti-drug smuggling technology is part of the reason, says expert.

British passport holders are proportionately more likely to be arrested in the UAE than they are in any other nation apart from the US and Cyprus, according to a new report cited by UAE daily The National on Monday.

Last year, 230 Britons were imprisoned in the Emirates, including 59 for drugs offences, figures from the Foreign Office in London show, the paper said.

Fifty Britons were apprehended in Abu Dhabi last year, 19 for drugs crimes, it added.The paper quoted Catherine Wolthuizen, chief executive of Fair Trials International, as saying that the number of drug arrests was down to the highly sensitive new equipment that customs officials use to conduct searches on travellers.

"So many people now travel to Dubai and, as we’re seeing, many have no idea what risks they’re taking or their vulnerability to this very strict approach," she says. "If they find any amount - no matter how minute - it will be enough to attract a mandatory four-year prison sentence.

“What many travellers may not realise is that they can be deemed to be in possession of such banned substances if they can be detected in their urine or bloodstream, or even in tiny, trace amounts on their person.”

Raymond Bingham, also known as DJ Grooverider, was among those arrested for drugs offences last year. The Radio 1 broadcaster was jailed for four years in February after being caught at Dubai International Airport three months earlier with a small amount of cannabis and a pornographic DVD in his luggage.

Keith Brown, a British tourist, was also sentenced to four years in prison after Dubai customs officers found a 0.003g trace of cannabis stuck to his shoe.

The figures also suggested that Britons were more likely to seek consular assistance in the UAE than they were anywhere else, the paper said.

Last year, British consular staff in the Emirates were asked for help on 3,597 occasions, a total surpassed only by the Uunited States (8,304) and Spain (7,590), both of which have many more UK visitors, the paper repoted.

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Aadil 12 years ago

4 Year prison sentence for "0.003g trace of cannabis stuck to his shoe" That's absolutely ridiculous. I don't mind a tough of drugs attitude but that's just ridiculous. What surprises me most is that the international airlines don't jump on these kinds of stories to try to chip away at Emirates market share. They should try some negative ads like in the US presidential race. Dubai's targeting to increase tourists, but it may lose the large number of stop over tourists if these things continue. My opinion (for today) - the UAE is a very primitive place.

Fadi 12 years ago

0.003 or 0.000003 grams, the question is why did he have cannabis stuck to his shoe? There are thousands who don't have such stuff on them in any amount. So surely there is a reason why he had drugs stuck to his shoe, and he deserved to be punished. Dubai is a clean and safe city and we don't need people with drugs, no matter how less.

Kenneth 12 years ago

Sounds like propaganda to me... this same article has appeared in the press several times over the past year or so. Yes, it is good to keep Dubai a clean place especially from cocaine and heroin dealers but I question the information and communication strategy on the issue. With regards to the 0.003g, you could step on a speck of anything whilst walking anywhere in the world. Fadi could have more than 0.003g stuck to his shoe right now simply by walking the street of his hometown so indeed, that story is ridiculous but it looks more like a "scarecrow" than anything else.

Doug 12 years ago

Fadi - of course the amount is important. 0.003g of cannabis isn't even visible to the naked eye. The fact that such a tiny amount was stuck to his shoe is not proof by any stretch that this man was trying to sneak drugs in to sell in the UAE. He could have quite simply stepped on such a tiny amount and not noticed it. And that doesn't mean he was in some drug den at the time he stepped on it either. Furthermore, even if someone consumes drugs in a foreign country and then travels to the UAE, I would suggest it is legally suspect for the UAE authorities to prosecute for a crime that occurred in another country. I believe that if you are found with traces of narcotics in your bloodstream on entry to the UAE, it counts as 'possession', as if you were bringing the drug into this country. Where does that leave people from say, the Netherlands, where cannabis consumption is legal? Should we just ban the Dutch from the UAE? It is fair and right that the UAE protects its borders and its people from the menace of drugs, but this needs to be balanced with a recognition that overzealous enforcement will damage the image of the UAE as a place for tourists to spend money and enjoy legal activities. Furthermore, don't you think it's an outrage that in the UAE, a man who kills two pedestrians in his van is jailed for just six months, whereas a man who treads on a microscopic piece of cannabis can be jailed for four years? Seriously, which is the greater crime? If the UAE applied the same logic to its murder laws as it did to its drug ones, you would be arrested for even looking at a vehicle.

shantisubra 12 years ago

With all illegal activities of Britons, I wonder why they are given FREE VISIT VISA on ARRIVAL AT DUBAI AIRPORT, whereas innocent citizens of other nations are charged a heck of visa charges accompanied with various rules?

Ian 12 years ago

I am not a drug user and I certainly don't condone drug use. But the UAE certainly has things out of proportion. For example, Fadi is probably intaking more drugs in his coffee every day than he'd get from that legendary 0.003g of cannabis. Let the punishment fit the crime.

L 12 years ago

Brilliant! Yet more anti-British rubbish for no apparent reason. Completely agree with Kenneth and Doug - a) there is no new news here so who issues this inflammatory tripe? b) who is proportionately responsible for all the domestic violence, rape, prostitution, human trafficking, dangerous driving resulting in death and other well documented and prolific offences in this otherwise 'crime free' country? Guaranteed it's not the British. Seriously - is it not time to pick on someone more worthy?

Michael Montgomery 11 years ago

Editor's note Kindly note we have removed an entry from a 'Mr Mongomery' because the author provided fictitious details. The owner of his email account contacted us to let us know that he had not sent us the email, and requested we take down the comment.

Doug 11 years ago

Don't be so damn racist. I might as well say that because a small amount of Muslims have carried out terrorist attacks, we should ban all Muslims from the West. Let's compare the number of arrests of Britons with the number of Britons who actually visit the UAE, and then we'll see how that proportion compared to the other nationalities here, shall we? Ban Britons from the UAE and see just how quickly the economy nose-dives. We're not all answerable for the sins of a small minority. But if you want to be a bigot, please share your nationality with us and allow me to tar you with the same brush as all your compatriots too.

The Consultant 11 years ago

Some perspective required here. There are over 100,000 British citizens resident in the UAE, and around one million others visit every year. This therefore represents an arrest rate of 0.02% which probably compares favourably with most other nationalities present in the UAE.