Qatar 2015 Crime and Safety Report
Travel Health and Safety; Transportation Security; World Cup; Theft; Rape/Sexual Violence; Burglary; Crime; Maritime; Racial Violence/Xenophobia; Extreme heat/drought; Earthquakes; Employee Health Safety; Drug Trafficking; Surveillance
Near East > Qatar; Near East > Qatar > Doha
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
Qatar continues to prepare for the 2022 World Cup, and Doha is saturated with a massive number of construction projects. In addition, an enormous amount of economic activity is ongoing throughout Qatar, in particular in/around Doha and the industrial and energy producing areas.
Crime Rating: Low
According to reports released by Qatar’s Ministry of Interior (MOI), crime levels within Qatar decreased in 2014 but are projected to rise with the influx of third country nationals. Because of Qatar’s reliance on third country national workers, foreign labor camps have been established to house the large foreign labor pool resident in Qatar. These areas tend to have higher incidents of crime than other areas. 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 females, and minors inadvisable and/or unappealing due to overcrowding and the presence of an almost exclusively male laborer demographic. The government is adept at deporting unemployed guest workers, in an effort aimed at reducing the population of a demographic perceived to be more often involved in crime.
Local media and government data have indicated a small increase in both commercial and residential burglaries, as well as an increase in petty street crime. The burglary rate is 25 per 100,000 inhabitants (global average is 100 per 100,000). These types of criminal activity typically occur after dark and/or when Western expats are away from their homes for extended periods of time.
Incidents of vehicle break-ins do occur as crimes of opportunity but are rare in guarded/gated residential communities.
Government authorities indicated that rates of crimes such as kidnapping, assault, and arson are low compared to the rest of the region; the collective rate for these categories of crime is 5.0 per 100,000 persons (the world average is 8.0 per 100,000). Media reporting indicated that the national murder rate is 0.5 for every 100,000 residents (the global average based on UN data is 4.0 per 100,000). Violent crime, although comparatively rare, does occur and is more prevalent within the third country national labor camps and the industrial areas. Violent crime also occurs between/among Qatari nationals and/or by Qataris against foreign workers such as domestic staff but often goes unreported or is not fully investigated.
Violent crime involving the use of weapons is rare but does occur. Edged weapons are available and are often the weapon of choice, as are blunt instruments. Improvised weapons (tools, sports equipment, and construction materials) are also 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 sub-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.
Instances of sexual harassment or assault have been reported by expatriate females, both in public areas and at their residences. For example, in 2012, a private American citizen was sexually assaulted and murdered at her residence in Doha.
Other reported crimes include, but are not limited to, various types of immigration and residency fraud, ATM/credit card theft and white collar fraud, embezzlement, vehicle theft, 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 cyber crimes. Corporate disputes over business practices are also frequently reported.
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 Embassy’s Regional Security Office has assessed prospects for potential crime increases over the next 36 months and believes that low level illegal activity will likely continue to increase over time, both in frequency and level of sophistication.
Areas of Concern
It is not unusual for private watercraft to be stopped and boarded by the Qatari Coast Guard and/or Navy for straying into sensitive or restricted zones. Furthermore, Qatar has experienced maritime-based narcotics smuggling and conflicts in its territorial waters with foreign fisherman, so security awareness while in the maritime environment is essential.
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. This is exacerbated by the widespread presence of inefficient and dated British-style traffic roundabouts. The government enacted a plan in mid-2013 to smooth the traffic flow in many heavily-traveled area, and efforts are underway to replace the roundabouts with traffic intersections. Roads often have unrepaired pot holes and obstacles, as well as unmarked speed bumps that can cause loss of control of vehicles if hit at high speed.
Outside of Doha, the roadways vary from very good to poor condition. Many 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 are frequently muddy or washed out during the winter when rains can 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 other appropriately equipped vehicles and always carry extra potable water, food, first aid equipment, excavation tools, reliable navigation and communications equipment (GPS, a map, radio, satellite phone, extended range cell phone with antenna, etc.), and layered clothing suitable for the variable temperatures. All navigation/communications equipment should be well charged and have extra batteries.
Driving can be dangerous. 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, however, 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 in Qatar are below 30 years of age. 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.
If involved in a vehicular accident, it is best to remain with the vehicle, provided that this can be done safely, until the police arrive. 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. If the cause of the accident is disputed or if a party is injured, the vehicles involved should not be moved. This is particularly true if there is significant property damage or if the accident requires further investigation to determine culpability. It is also a criminal offense to leave the scene of an accident, although in the case of minor accidents that are not disputed (both parties agree to the cause and culpability of the accident), it is generally permissible to drive to a police station and file a report. 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. Limousine services are the preferred means for females traveling to and from hotels, and females should always sit in the back (never the front) seat. When using public taxis or limousine services, do not allow the driver to pick up additional passengers along the way.
Other Travel Conditions
Public intoxication and/or driving while under the influence of alcohol/substances is not tolerated. Offenders will be detained, arrested, and if found guilty required to pay heavy civil and/or criminal fines and other penalties. Immediate deportation/expulsion is also common.
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. Specifically, 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. Further out, 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.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
Political Violence Rating: Low
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
Violent terrorist incidents are rare, but harassment and attacks against Western targets have occurred. On March 19, 2005, a suicide bomber using a car bomb attacked a local theater frequented by Westerners. This attack resulted in the death of the attacker and two bystanders and the injury of at least 12 others.
All residents and visitors should remain aware of and alert for the significant and continuing terrorism threat in the region. Terrorist attacks can be indiscriminate, occur with little or no warning, and be conducted against any Western or Western-affiliated target, particularly to include those associated with Americans and American interests.
Terrorism Rating: Medium
There have been no known acts of violence directed at American-branded businesses in Qatar. Ongoing regional developments in the Arabian Peninsula and the broader region may quickly affect local public opinion and sentiment.
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. U.S. citizens should take reasonable and prudent security precautions at all times regarding their personal safety by avoiding any large public gatherings and demonstrations and remaining alert when visiting any establishments or events known to be frequented by Westerners.
The government reports that most instances of violent crime are between/among certain ethnic groups comprised of young male laborers and are not generally directed against Western expatriates.
The climate is extreme and unforgiving for several months of the year. During the summer months (April to October), temperatures can average between 95-122 degrees Fahrenheit (35-50 degrees Celsius). The average humidity is 90 percent. During the winter months (December to February), rain showers are more likely to occur, with the days generally being mild, and the evenings are 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, 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 with epicenters in the region).
Critical Infrastructure Concerns
Industrial and public health/safety standards are generally not 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.
Local authorities have seized drugs through improved enforcement, greater emphasis on interdiction, and increased law enforcement capabilities to identify, monitor, track, and apprehend offenders. A November 2014 seizure consisted of 32,000 Captagon amphetamine pills. Seizures occurred primarily at ports of entry and in coastal waters during interdiction operations. Drug totals seized in the past few years have included hashish (557kg), heroin (1,449kg), opium (6,868kg), Al Kat (414kg) and various drug tablets (2,933kg). According to UN reporting, Qatar continues to grow as a center for contraband trafficking coming from Latin America. The government has reported a small decrease in the number of maritime drug seizures, explaining that it has increased its capability in interdiction through better rules of engagement and the use of surface monitoring coastal radars that have contributed to the decline in maritime smuggling activity along Qatar's extended coastline. The Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Defense are cooperating under National Shield, a plan to better use both Ministries to protect Qatar’s national borders. In the past few years, several drug seizures have occurred at Doha International Airport; these cases have involved international drug smugglers using couriers to transport quantities of narcotics aboard commercial aircraft to/through Qatar.
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 individual 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 for the national leadership. Customer service, response, and investigative skills may not be at a level expected in the EU, Australia, or North American police forces. English language skills of first responders may be lacking. Depending upon traffic density and other priorities, police response times in Doha can range from 5-30 or more 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 preventing responders from arriving at a scene. 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.
Qatari police officers, particularly patrol officers, public premises, and traffic police, do not make traffic stops as often as police in the U.S. or other countries 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.
The capability of governmental law enforcement has increased in recent years. Leveraging innovative technology to mitigate manpower shortfalls, the government still lacks skilled manpower and experience in investigating sophisticated types of fraud to fully meet all of the law enforcement challenges it faces.
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 (US $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.
Most residential compounds occupied by U.S. government and expatriate personnel 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. In early 2010, the local print media reported the creation of a pilot community-policing program. This program was initiated by the MOI/Al Fazaa (neighborhood police).
In 2006, the Ministry of Interior built and put into operation a National Command Center (NCC), in northern Doha. The NCC possesses sophisticated capabilities to respond to emergency calls, identify and 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 over time will serve as the primary focal point for incident response and crisis management, as well as a control center for major events.
Depending upon traffic density and other service calls, ambulance response time in Doha usually ranges between 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
Medical websites for further reference:
Contact Information for Recommended Hospitals/Clinics
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).
Recommended Air Ambulance Services
Hamad Hospital operates an air medevac service as part of the government’s emergency medical service system.
Recommended Insurance Posture
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.
CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
For additional information on vaccines and health guidance, please visit the CDC at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/qatar.
Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim
Situational Awareness Best Practices
Vary your days/times for work, shopping, errands, and personal needs. Be unpredictable with your personal routines. Do maintain a low profile by not doing anything that draws attention to yourself. Do not flaunt your (relative) wealth. Carry only the minimum amount of cash that you need for the day. Be familiar with the routes when moving to and from locations. Avoid unlit streets at night and unfamiliar areas of town when alone. Travel in a group (3-5) and avoid travel when alone at night. Never resist armed theft. Dress conservatively when in Qatar and avoid revealing clothing, especially for females. Do not discuss work related issues in public.
Do keep your doors locked and windows closed (residence and vehicle). Keep bottles of water in your vehicle. Do check the interior and exterior of your vehicle prior to approaching/entering it. Look for things that are irregular or abnormal. Always be aware of your surroundings. Report all suspicious activity to your corporate security representative or the police. Do identify and report to your corporate designated security representative any vehicles or persons possibly involved in surveillance of your activities. In traffic, always attempt to leave space in which to maneuver. Always leave yourself an exit. Be prepared to take evasive action at any time. If you are being followed or harassed by another driver, try to find the nearest police station, hotel, or other public facility to call the police. Never lead the person back to your home. Alert your colleagues and family to your daily plans and how to reach you. When traveling at night, be sure someone knows where you are going and when you are expected back.
Stay alert to what is going on around you. Avoid political, religious or other demonstrations or gatherings. Keep abreast of the local and regional political scene using the media. Should you encounter a hostile or verbally abusive individual, leave the scene quickly, move to a public area (restaurant, store or hotel) and immediately notify the police and embassy.
Leave your valuables and spare cash in the hotel safe or other secure place. Always pack your own baggage and never leave it unattended. Should you lose your hotel room key card, bear in mind that information stored on it may include your name, partial home address, hotel room, check-in and check-out dates, credit card number and expiry date. Notify hotel security of any suspicious activity. Do not leave valuables in the room unattended. Keep doors locked at all times. Use the optical viewer before opening the door. Keep at least two bottles of water in your room in case of emergency.
Always remember to carry appropriate forms of identification with you at all times. Follow the directions of the host nation police and obey all local traffic laws. Always carry a cellular phone but utilize a hands-free device while driving.
Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
The American 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 which the Embassy follows are Sunday through Thursday, 7:30 am to 4:00 pm. The hours for routine American Citizen Services are 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm 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.
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 to privately owned vehicles. Although virtually all taxis in town can get you to the Embassy with relative ease, getting a taxi to pick you up from the Embassy may be problematic.
Travelers should also regularly consult the Department's travel website at http://travel.state.gov. 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.
OSAC Country Council Information
Qatar’s OSAC Country Council was chartered in May 2004. It enjoys an active private sector-led Council, which has a diverse membership including U.S.-owned or joint venture firms from the energy sector (i.e. oil and gas), service sector organizations, academia, and the medical community. In 2007, the OSAC Doha Steering Committee partnered with the British Embassy's SISBO (Security Information Service for Businesses Overseas) Coordinator in an initiative to further our partnership in providing information on a wide range of security issues that U.S. or UK businesses may jointly face when operating in Qatar. Furthermore, many within the local OSAC chapter also are active in the ASIS International chapter.
Security representatives of companies or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) doing business in Qatar are encouraged to contact OSAC Headquarters soonest to learn of security-related issues relevant to their business plans. The contact number in Washington, DC is 1 (571) 345-7747 and the Near East Team email is OSACNEA@state.gov. Following this, the Embassy's Regional Security Office (RSO) may be contacted to see if a follow-on appointment is warranted. The contact number for the RSO is (974) 4496-6767.