The government was last evening mum as the reality of a visa ban on Kenyan citizens wanting to travel to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) started to sink in.
Several global media outlets announced on Thursday that Kenya was among 13 countries whose citizens will not get visas to travel to the UAE until further notice. The bad news came just hours before national carrier Kenya Airways was to make its maiden direct cargo flight between Mombasa and the UAE. Other countries affected by the ban are Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan and Tunisia, Iran, Turkey, Syria and Somalia.
Citing a document issued by a UAE owned state business park, Reuters said the ban was effected due to security reasons. It shall only affect those applying for new visas. It is still not clear how many categories of visas will be affected by the suspension. UAE has several visa categories including tourist, student, transit and business. Nevertheless, the ban which came into effect on November 18 courtesy of an immigration circular did not have specific concerns that Abu Dhabi has on issuing visas to citizens of the affected countries.
"It was not clear if there were any exceptions to the ban. The UAE's Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship had no immediate comment," said Reuters. Government spokesman Cyrus Oguna did not respond to our questions on why exactly Kenya was part of a list of countries whose majority had somehow unstable security situations back home.
Quoting an unnamed diplomat, Reuters said that some of the listed states have strained relationships with the UAE. Pakistan which is the only country in the list that has publicly admitted its citizens have been locked from accessing the UAE, said it had written to Abu Dhabi seeking an explanation. The Pakistan Foreign Ministry however said it suspects that the suspension was related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Almost all countries in the list are currently grappling with the very high Covid 19 infection rates. Yesterday, Kenya recorded 780 new Covid-19 cases from 6,158 samples raising nationwide tally to 80,102. This is as the number of fatalities rose to 1,427 after 10 more patients succumbed to the virus.