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Qatar 2017 Crime & Safety Report

Near East > Qatar; Near East > Qatar > Doha

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Embassy Doha does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED DOHA AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Please review OSAC’s Qatar-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

As Qatar prepares for the 2022 World Cup, Doha is saturated with a massive number of construction projects and economic activity. With a steady influx of migrant workers, Qatar’s population continued to increase to over 2.5 million people in December 2016, according to the Qatari Ministry of Development, Planning, and Statistics. Expatriates vastly outnumber Qatari nationals (approximately 9 to 1), and labor workers heavily contribute to a significant gender imbalance (75 percent male) in the overall population.

Crime Threats

The Qatari Ministry of Interior reported that Qatar was the top Middle Eastern country for security over the previous five years, based on the Global Peace Index and 2015 statistical data. The government monitors crime trends carefully and expends great effort to keep pace with it via improved enforcement capabilities in an effort to identify, deter, and neutralize emerging crime trends.

The country reports a low number of violent incidents and crime. American visitors are less likely to be a victim of crime in Doha than in most large U.S. cities. Murder rates reported in recent years are well below global averages. 2015 data from the Ministry of Interior showed that registered homicides were 97.5% lower than the global average. Violent crime targeting U.S. and other Western expatriates, although relatively rare, does occur. Government authorities indicate that rates of crimes such as kidnapping, assault, and arson are low compared to the rest of the region. The Ministry of Interior statistics also show a decline of 3.5% in the number of crime cases reported in 2015 compared with 2014 irrespective of the population growth rate of 9.2%. The burglary rate is also reportedly well below the global average. Burglaries and thefts typically occur after dark and/or when Western expatriates are away from their homes for extended periods.

Incidents of vehicle break-ins, theft, and motor vehicle theft (sometimes in connection with “joyriding”) do occur as crimes of opportunity but are rare in guarded/gated residential communities.

There have been reported incidents of sexual harassment and assaults targeting expatriate females.

Because of Qatar’s reliance on foreign workers, foreign labor camps have been established to house the large resident foreign “blue-collar” labor pool. These areas tend to have higher incidents of crime. Large numbers of foreign workers congregate in certain areas of Doha and its environs during weekends and after hours, making visits to these areas by most expatriates and their families, unaccompanied women, and minors inadvisable and/or unappealing due to overcrowding and the presence of an almost exclusively male laborer demographic.

The government reports that most instances of violent crime are between/among certain third-country national ethnic groups comprised of young male laborers and are not generally directed against Western expatriates. The government is adept at deporting guest workers who might be involved in crimes or are deemed to pose a threat to public security. Since foreign workers tend to fear deportation, crimes committed by Qataris against foreign workers (domestic staff) often go unreported. Violent crime is more prevalent within the third-country national labor camps and the industrial areas. Edged weapons are available and are often the weapon of choice, as are blunt instruments. Improvised weapons (tools, sports equipment, construction materials) are frequently used in targeted instances of violence by one group of third-country nationals against another. These altercations are often the result of specific disputes that are unique to industrial neighborhoods and labor camps and the populations living there. These incidents occasionally occur near, or overflow into, commercial business areas where criminals can locate/create burglary tools and other cutting instruments to perpetrate criminal activity.

While possession of firearms is not widespread among the general population, individuals can obtain permits to purchase and carry firearms.

Other reported crimes include, but are not limited to, various types of immigration and residency fraud, ATM/credit card theft, white collar fraud, embezzlement, counterfeiting, illegal narcotics (use/smuggling/possession/trafficking/distribution), identity theft/fraud, begging, pickpocketing (particularly in crowded locales), unauthorized real estate businesses, illegal private taxi services, and various cybercrimes. Corporate disputes over business practices are also frequently reported.

Cybersecurity Issues

Qatar takes cybersecurity seriously and, over the last few years, has been the victim of several high-profile, publicly reported cyberattacks on government and media websites and on energy industry networks. The Ministry of Interior reported a 52% increase in cybercrimes in 2015 compared to 2014 (further information on MOI crime statistics).  

The Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) has a dedicated computer emergency response team (Q-CERT), which identifies and resolves major threats and which maintains a reporting and analysis coordination effort. Q-CERT works to address the cybersecurity threats in order to provide protection to minimize the risks from hackers, malware, and more malicious actors (terrorists, organized criminal networks, industrial, and foreign government espionage) to cyber warfare. Companies and members of the public can report cyber incidents by phone, by email, and through an incident reporting form. Their website includes a daily threat alert dashboard, statistics, and access to technical services assessment and testing. The Ministry of Interior is charged with investigating and prosecuting cybercrimes, which fall under its criminal investigation jurisdiction and under Qatari law that can include defamation and use of the Internet for a wide range of criminal purposes. In January 2016, the Ministry of Interior opened a new headquarters of its Cybercrime Combating Centre, which provides data and security intelligence to roving security patrols to interdict and investigate criminal acts. To report cybercrimes to the Ministry of Interior, you can contact the Cybercrime Combating Centre via tel: (+974) 2347444 or hotline (+974) 66815757, or via e-mail.

Other Areas of Concern

It is not unusual for private watercraft to be stopped and boarded by the Qatari Coast Guard (Ministry of Interior’s General Directorate of Coasts and Borders Security) and/or Navy for straying into sensitive or restricted zones. Security awareness while in the maritime environment is essential.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

The road network in metro Doha, though generally in good repair, is increasingly strained due to the growing number of vehicles and construction and is unable to handle current traffic levels. The government enacted a plan in mid-2013 to smooth the traffic flow in many heavily-traveled areas, and efforts are underway to replace the roundabouts with traffic intersections.

Construction on roads is often poorly marked and can present a safety hazard, and the presence of unmarked speed bumps can cause loss of control of vehicles if hit at high speed. Outside of Doha, the roadways vary from very good to poor condition. Some are not properly illuminated during hours of darkness and lack shoulders. Although many highways are fenced to prevent livestock from venturing onto the road, many fences have improvised gates and holes. Low areas can be muddy or washed out during the winter when rains occur.

Participating in off-road desert excursions can be dangerous, so it is better left to the experienced "off-road" driver with a suitably equipped four-wheel drive (4x4) vehicle. Always have a travel plan/itinerary that can be shared with colleagues or family members. Travel with one or more appropriately equipped vehicles and always carry extra potable water, food, first aid equipment, excavation tools, reliable navigation/communications equipment, and layered clothing suitable for the variable temperatures.

Drivers displaying varying degrees of skill, aggressiveness, and attentiveness often maneuver erratically and at high speed, demonstrating little road discipline or courtesy. Drivers often fail to use turn signals and may neglect to turn on their headlights during hours of darkness or inclement weather. Many drivers do not use seat belts and tend to disregard traffic signals at intersections and roundabouts that are not monitored by the comprehensive traffic enforcement system of radars, sensors, and photo/video monitoring systems to enforce speed limits and red light controls. Even with these increased controls, compliance at non-controlled intersections and along unmonitored roads is poor, resulting in a vehicular accident rate in excess of 70,000 per annum. Traffic fatalities are one of Qatar's leading causes of death and are the number one cause of accidental deaths. According to the Annual Bulletin of Vital Statistics, a majority of the victims of vehicle accidents are under 30-years old. Foreigners or others who are unaccustomed to Qatar’s liberal rules of the road and who lose their temper and engage in road rage could face severe civil and/or criminal penalties, or (in rare cases) be subject to a travel ban, preventing them from departing Qatar until the matter is resolved to the offended party's satisfaction. Many U.S. companies provide employees with defensive driving training.

Fines for traffic violations can be high compared to the U.S. Failure to stop at a red light can result in a fine in excess of 6,000 riyals (over U.S.$1,600). This fine may be levied for stopping over the solid white line at an intersection, even without running the red light. While alcohol consumption is legal in hotels, Qatar exercises a zero tolerance policy for driving while intoxicated. This means that a driver with a blood alcohol count over 0.0 mg is considered to be impaired. Offenders will be detained, arrested, and required to pay heavy civil/criminal fines and other penalties. Immediate deportation/expulsion is also common.

If involved in a minor vehicular accident, the accident can be reported via a Ministry of Interior’s app named “Metrash 2.” After taking four photos of each vehicle, the vehicles need to be moved off of the roadway. The traffic law of October 2007 stipulates a 1500 Qatari Riyal (U.S.$412) fine for anyone who blocks traffic after a minor vehicular accident. In a more serious accident or if a party is injured, the vehicles involved should not be moved. It is also a criminal offense to leave the scene of an accident. In accidents with property damage, it is imperative that a police report be filed in order to have the vehicle repaired or to collect on an insurance claim. If an accident results in injuries, it may be necessary to self-transport to medical facilities. There are no Good Samaritan laws, so assisting at the scene of an accident may expose the responder to liability.

Public Transportation Conditions

The use of metered fares for a taxi should be established prior to entering the vehicle. Uber is available and increasingly popular. Limousine services are the preferred means for females traveling to/from hotels, and females should sit in the back seat. When using public taxis or limousine services, do not allow the driver to pick up additional passengers along the way.

There is a public bus system running limited routes throughout Doha that is most heavily used by third-country national laborers. There is little to no use of the bus system by most residents.

Qatar Rail is building a Metro rail system within Doha, with a light rail transit connecting Lusail City to Doha. Construction is expected to be completed in 2019.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Qatar’s airport and civil aviation officials work closely with the U.S. TSA on security screening and compliance with U.S. security requirements on governing flights to/from the U.S. The U.S. DHS has a CBP unit at Hamad International Airport (HIA) and conducts Global Entry interviews at their airport office upon appointment.

HIA opened in 2014 and is one of the world’s busiest civil aviation hubs for transit flights, with an estimated 90% of all travelers passing through HIA in transit status. Qatar aviation officials reported that the biggest threat faced by the travelling public at HIA is theft onboard the airplanes from other passengers. There have been reports of arrests for thefts of passports during flights; while passengers were asleep or not paying attention, criminal rings pilfered the overhead baggage areas to steal passports, money, and other valuable items.

In December 2016, the Ministry of Interior announced that expatriates could use E-gate services at HIA, free of charge, for departures and arrivals to bypass potentially long queues at immigration counters. To use E-Gate, a passenger places his/her Qatar ID card on the e-reader, which reads and verifies the biometric data stored on the card.

Other Travel Conditions

Exercise care and caution before chartering any local watercraft (dhows, in particular), motor boats, and jet skis for recreational excursions, particularly when operating close to shore in congested waterways. Safety procedures and protocols are generally not up to U.S. Coast Guard standards. There may not be adequate numbers of and/or accessibility to life jackets onboard vessels, and licensing requirements to operate certain types of motorized watercraft are not required. The Gulf's waters are heavily traversed by commercial and military vessels and are laced with many offshore oil and gas rigs, sunken platforms, and artificial atolls.

Terrorism Threat

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED DOHA AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

The security and threat environment in Gulf States remains significant, as regional extremist groups maintain the capability of conducting attacks in Gulf countries and attempt to inspire potential sympathizers to conduct “lone wolf” attacks. The possibility of a terrorist attack against U.S. interests in Qatar cannot be dismissed. Continued threats from terrorist groups directed against U.S. interests worldwide require that U.S. citizens exercise a high-level of vigilance and security awareness, keep abreast of regional developments, and incorporate good security practices into their daily activities.

Anti-American/Anti-Western Sentiment

There have been no known acts in recent years of violence directed at American-branded businesses in Qatar. Regional developments in the Arabian Peninsula and the broader region may affect local public opinion and sentiment.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED DOHA AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Civil Unrest

Public protests and/or demonstrations are rare. Demonstrations usually occur only with the prior approval from the government, and tight controls are imposed on the event organizers.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

The climate is extreme and unforgiving for several months. During the summer (April-October), temperatures can average between 95-122 degrees Fahrenheit (35-50 degrees Celsius). The average humidity is 90%. During the winter (December-February), rain showers are more likely to occur, with the days generally being mild and the evenings relatively cold at 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius). Residential apartments and villas are usually not equipped with substantial insulation, lack water-proofing, and often have no interior heat.

Throughout the year, but especially in the spring, Qatar is subject to dust storms that can emerge quickly, causing white-out and low visibility conditions for hours to days. These storms can have a substantial impact on driving/road conditions and airport operations.

Qatar is also in an earthquake zone. Buildings on any reclaimed property or landfills are often not fully evaluated for structural integrity and are more susceptible to damage from natural acts (flash flooding or earthquakes).

Critical Infrastructure

Industrial and public health/safety standards are not always up to Western standards. Workplace accidents are common due to hazardous working conditions, relaxed safety standards, and the presence of dangerous/toxic industrial materials and equipment.

Privacy Concerns

Qatari law mandates that surveillance cameras be installed at most facilities, including residential compounds, hospitals, malls, and hotels. As a result, most visitors and residents are subjected to being monitored via surveillance cameras. The government of Qatar also collects biometric data at the port of entry.

Personal Identity Concerns

Travelers, especially females, perceived to be part of the “blue-collar” migrant work force might face discrimination, often from other foreign residents.

Depending on regional developments, certain nationalities might be targeted for additional security screening and attention.

Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar.

Drug-related Crimes

Authorities have seized drugs through improved enforcement, greater emphasis on interdiction, and increased law enforcement capabilities to identify, monitor, track, and apprehend offenders. Seizures occurred primarily at ports of entry and in coastal waters during interdiction operations. Media reports have pointed to an apparent increase in the past couple of years of drug seizures at the airport in Doha; cases have involved international drug smugglers using couriers to transport quantities of narcotics (hashish, cocaine, methamphetamine).
Between September and November 2016, Qatari customs officials reportedly thwarted attempts to smuggle over 50 kilograms of marijuana.
In January 2016, it was reported that Saudi and Qatari authorities had interdicted attempts to bring over two million amphetamines into Qatar.

Police Response

Qatar possesses enormous financial resources that have been used to purchase top-of-the-line law enforcement equipment, communications systems, and both private and governmental training. However, a small Qatari population limits the amount of manpower that can be recruited, creating perpetual shortfalls in the public safety and law enforcement fields. The majority of the uniformed enlisted police forces working within the Ministry of Interior are third-country nationals from the Middle East and North Africa. Police holding the rank of officer, and personnel in the Internal Security Force (ISF) who drive red police vehicles, are Qataris. This mixture of nationalities in the public safety field can present some command, control, and communications challenges.

Customer service, response, and investigative skills may not be at a level expected in the U.S. English language skills of first responders may be lacking. Depending upon traffic density and other priorities, police response times in Doha can range from 5 to 30+ minutes. Response times can be even longer during local religious holidays (Ramadan, in particular), on weekends, and/or during hours of darkness. The presence of major events may result in blocked roadways, further delaying responders. Nevertheless, police officers are generally professional, cooperative, and courteous when responding to American community requests for assistance, particularly when assisting and adjudicating traffic accidents and infractions.

Police officers, particularly patrol officers, public premises, and traffic police, do not make traffic stops as often as police in the U.S. or but instead rely on an extensive network of cameras for traffic enforcement. Police officers are often assigned to locations mainly as a visual/psychological deterrence, not necessarily to perform response or incident management functions.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

If arrested or detained, U.S. citizens should politely insist on speaking with a Consular Officer at the U.S. Embassy or if after-hours, with the Embassy's after-hours Duty Officer who can be reached at (974) 4496-6000. Do not assume the police reported your arrest to U.S. Embassy. A Consular Officer will visit the U.S. citizen within 24 to 72 hours of the initial notification. If a local attorney is required to assist in any civil/criminal proceeding, their professional fees can approach or exceed QR 30,000 (U.S.$8,250) to consider the case.

Crime Victim Assistance

The police may be contacted for emergency assistance by dialing 999; English speaking dispatchers are routinely assigned to handle calls to this number, but their language proficiency can vary. According to the Ministry of Interior Statistics, the emergency number 999 received 1,943,653 calls during 2015 that included request for traffic services, diseases, injuries, complaints, fire incidents, and other personal assistance.

Police/Security Agencies

The Ministry of Interior (MOI) and the Internal Security Force (ISF, “Lekhwiya”) are primarily responsible for law enforcement and security.

Most residential compounds occupied by U.S. government and expatriate personnel also employ local security guards who are under contract with the compound’s management. Most compounds have varying degrees of physical and technical security systems, including various types of access control, vehicle placards/stickers, barrier systems, CCTVs, and other countermeasures. Some compounds have local police (MOI Public Guards) assigned to provide deterrence/response.

The MOI/Al Fazaa police (Rescue Police) provide response units.

The Ministry of Interior operates the National Command Center (NCC) in northern Doha. The NCC possesses sophisticated capabilities to respond to emergency calls, identify/monitor security incidents, and provide response coordination in the event of contingencies. All MOI entities are represented at the NCC, which operates on a 24/7 basis, 365 days per year. The NCC continues to expand its capabilities and serves as the primary focal point for incident response, crisis management, and as a control center for major events.

Medical Emergencies

Depending upon traffic density and other service calls, ambulance response time in Doha usually ranges 5-30 minutes. During local religious holidays (Ramadan, in particular), weekends, and/or after hours, response times could be longer. Relative to the region, responding crews are considered to be well-equipped and trained. Patients may find that their actual experience will vary.

Fire/Police/Ambulance: Tel. 999

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

Patients will, in most cases, be transported to the government-owned Hamad Hospital Emergency Room (Tel. 4439-2333, http://www.hmc.org.qa) for triage and treatment. Hamad Hospital's ER was reportedly rated as the busiest in the world by an accreditation committee. Emergency care is assessed to be adequate.

For secondary care, many expatriates and visitors choose to visit the Al Emadi Hospital (Tel. 4466-6009), Doha Clinic Hospital (Tel. 4438-4211), or Al Ahli Hospital (Tel. 4489-8901).

Available Air Ambulance Services

Hamad Hospital operates an air medevac service as part of the government’s emergency medical service system.

Insurance Guidance

Before traveling, U.S. citizens should ensure they have comprehensive travel and medical insurance that will provide adequate coverage while in-country. Regardless of insurance coverage, many physicians and health care facilities will require payment with either cash or credit card before rendering service; medical treatment costs are considered expensive.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Qatar.

OSAC Country Council Information

The Doha Country Council currently meets monthly and has a diverse membership of approximately 60 organizations, including U.S-owned or joint venture firms from the energy sector, service sector organizations, academia, and the medical community.  Please contact OSAC’s Middle East and North Africa team with any questions or two join. If a follow-on appointment is warranted, the Embassy’s Regional Security Office may be contacted at (974) 4496-6767, email: DohaSecurity@state.gov.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

The U.S. Embassy in Doha is located in the Al-Luqta District on 22nd February Street, P.O. Box 2399.

Absent local and U.S. declared holidays, the official workweek/hours that the Embassy follows are Sun-Thurs, 0730-1600. The hours for routine American Citizen Services are 1300-1500 on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Embassy Contact Numbers

The main Embassy phone number is (974) 4496-6000, and once connected simply follow the voice prompts. During normal working hours, American citizens may call (974) 4496-6614 or email ACSCONSULARDOHA@state.gov. For after-hours emergencies, U.S. citizens should call (974) 4496-6000, to be transferred to the on-call Duty Officer.
Website: https://qa.usembassy.gov

Embassy Guidance

The Embassy staff takes its mandate to provide services to American citizens abroad seriously. The Embassy is ready at any time to assist American citizens in genuine emergencies (arrest, life-threatening injury, or death of a companion). There is limited outside parking available for privately owned vehicles. Although virtually all taxis or Uber drivers can transport passengers to the Embassy, securing a taxi to pick up from the Embassy can be complicated.

U.S. citizens living in or traveling to Qatar are encouraged to register for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). Enrolling in STEP gives the Embassy the ability to keep citizens updated with the latest safety and security information. In the event of an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or a family emergency, the Embassy will also be able to reach out to registrants with additional information.

Travelers should regularly consult the Department's travel website. Travelers are also encouraged to read the latest Consular Information Sheet for Qatar at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis. In the United States, one can also call: 1-888-407-4747 toll free or 1-202-501-4444.

Additional Resources

Qatar Information Sheet