British travellers have been warned that they are liable to arrest if they are found with alcohol in their blood when transiting through the United Arab Emirates. That means passengers who consume alcohol on flights to the UAE could face arrest when they land.
The warning was posted on a Facebook page for the British consulate in the UAE, where Dubai is a major tourist destination. The consulate also warned that visitors could be arrested as a passenger in a car driven by somebody with alcohol in their blood.
The post on the UK in UAE Facebook page states: “If caught carrying or drinking alcohol without a licence or with alcohol in your blood, you can be arrested. It is a punishable offence to be under the influence of alcohol in public – including when transiting through the UAE.”
The consulate adds that having traces of alcohol in your blood can result in a custodial sentence and/or a fine. Of the drink driving rule, the consulate added that “there is zero tolerance for drink driving in the UAE.”
The advice applies to both British expats and visitors to the UAE.
The warning comes two months after Dr Ellie Holman was detained in Dubai with her daughter for allegedly drinking a complimentary glass of wine on a flight from London.
After landing in Dubai, the 44-year-old says she was questioned about her visa and asked if she had consumed alcohol, before being taken into custody. She was released a month later.
Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, commented in a statement today: “Ellie’s arrest highlights two issues that are ongoing risks to travellers. One is that it is entirely illegal for tourists to consume alcohol, even if it is a minute amount and was provided by a licensed vendor or airline. Often alcohol charges are opened because they are easy to prosecute, rather than prosecuting for another charge that would be harder to prove. Another issue has been that complaints are opened against victims for the sole purpose of requesting compensatory payments to cancel the case. The complainant is not required to prove that the person was offensive, his word is enough to secure a prosecution. This leads to false accusations for extortive purpose and has been the cause of many wrongful detentions.”
The UAE is made up of seven emirates with differing rules and regulations. The Dubai Emirate allows residents to consume alcohol in that Emirate only if they have an alcohol licence. Tourists can buy and drink alcohol in licensed venues such as hotels, restaurants and clubs, says the FCO. Meanwhile, in conservative Emirate Sharjah, drinking alcohol is illegal.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) says: “You should be aware that it is a punishable offence under UAE law to drink or be under the influence of alcohol in public. British nationals have been arrested and charged under this law, often in cases where they have come to the attention of the police for a related offence or matter, such as disorderly or offensive behaviour.”
It advises that in the UAE, “laws and customs are very different to those in the UK,” and adds: “You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times. There may be serious penalties for doing something that might not be illegal in the UK.”
In 2017, 15.79 million people visited Dubai, a leap of 6.2 per cent year on year, according to figures from Dubai Tourism. From January to June 2018, 599,000 British tourists visited Dubai, a drop of 5 per cent from the same period a year earlier.