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Diplomatic Dispute Between Kenya, UAE Resolved

  • Michael Onyiego

The United Arab Emirates has lifted stringent travel restrictions that require all Kenyans entering the country to possess a university degree.

In a news conference at Kenya's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula announced that Emirati officials had agreed to lift the restrictions after diplomatic talks last week in Dubai.

The restriction was initially imposed after an error made by Kenyan immigration officials, who deported four members of Dubai's royal family last month.

The four individuals were detained for lacking proper entry visas in Mombasa, a city on the Kenyan coast. Kenyan authorities then accused the Emiratis of being suspected terrorists and interrogated them for hours before returning them to Dubai.

More than 37,000 Kenyans live and work in the United Arab Emirates, the majority employed in the construction and hospitality industries.

According to Foreign Minister Wetangula, the restriction was also aimed at the growing amount of business being done by Kenyan's in the country.

"It is one of those soft barriers that countries put as gates to entering into their countries, but this was in my estimation a bit overstretched," said Moses Wetangula. "Because if you go to the United Arab Emirates many of our nationals are there as business people. You go to buy a car, to buy tiles, whatever you want to buy. What you need is money not a degree. And I think we have agreed with our friends that we will go back to the status quo, and that condition has been rescinded."

The retaliatory restriction required all Kenyans entering the United Arab Emirates to present proof of higher education in order to obtain a visa. Many Kenyans working in the country expressed fears they would be deported when they applied to renew their work visas.

The brief diplomatic dispute proved a temporary setback to the increasingly strong ties between the two nations. Kenya engages in $1.3 billion worth of trade annually with the United Arab Emirates, and Kenyans working in the country send home an estimated $10 million in remittances each year, the bulk of which comes from Dubai.