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Responding to the Uncertainty in Qatar: The Latest Developments and Practical Advice

An evolving diplomatic crisis between Qatar and some of its fellow Gulf Co-operation Council members is causing many Qatari and foreign nationals in the region to repatriate. The measures announced this week also signal the closing of the land border crossing by Saudi Arabia and the curtailment of air and sea travel into and out of the country by several other countries.

For companies with employees in the region, the impact of this situation may mean large-scale group moves are under consideration. Here we offer an overview of this uncertain situation, what it means in practice and some of the next steps for companies looking to respond effectively.

Who is affected by the embargo of Qatar?

Countries announcing a freeze in diplomatic relations with Qatar means citizens in some of its neighboring countries, and foreign nationals in Qatar itself, currently have no consular support. The situation varies from country to country. However, we understand that:

  • Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) gave Qatari diplomats 48 hours’ notice to leave their respective counties. 
  • Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and UAE also advised Qatari citizens they have 14 days to exit.
  • Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and UAE nationals are banned from traveling to the Qatar, with the UAE apparently recalling its citizens as a “precautionary measure."
  • The Philippines’ government expressed concern for the estimated 260,000 Filipinos working in Qatar. It is closely monitoring and consulting on the situation in case it escalates further.
  • Maldives’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed Qatari nationals remain free to travel between the two countries and economic ties remain.

Temporary or permanent evacuation of foreign nationals from Qatar, and of Qatari nationals in the affected countries, should be evaluated by employers as a possibility to mitigate the risk to employee well being of the developing situation.

What are the likely impacts on people forced to repatriate?

Travel Arrangements

With announcements of the closure of air, land and sea borders, Qatar’s airlines were banned within 24 hours of Monday’s edict from flying into and out of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, or in their airspace. There are currently no flights operating in or out of Qatar between these countries.

People repatriating from Qatar into the countries involved in the embargo are traveling home indirectly via third countries. This is extending and complicating travel arrangements. 

Household Goods Shipments

Shipments of household goods could also face some delays. Air, sea and land transportation routes are affected by transit bans into and out of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE and Egypt. Ships registered in Qatar are not able to transit through UAE, which is already hampering maritime consignments.

Commercial

The embargo is in danger of extending to banking. In what is a fluid situation, there are some reports Saudi Arabia’s government has advised people and businesses not to make transactions through Qatar’s banks or in the local currency.  There are also signs in Qatar of a run on the US dollar as people become concerned about the economic impact of trade embargos in this resource export-led economy.  Food shortages are a further concern given Qatar’s heavy reliance on imports for food and other essential items.

How to best support relocating employees impacted by this situation?

In fast-changing scenarios with non-negotiable timelines, safeguarding personal and employee security is critical. This is likely to be at the forefront of employers’ minds. Alongside up-to-date contingency plans, critical to keeping on top of changes and what they mean for relocating employees and families, is access to accurate, timely immigration alerts and monitoring reports.

In the current situation, group moves and revisions to planned and future assignments both in the short term and long term will continue to be evaluated by employers in the region as they monitor the ongoing situation. Action planning and communication are therefore fundamental to minimizing stress and ensuring seamless transitions for moves.

Engaging international removals and relocation services —4 areas to consider for group moves

Among the top considerations for making plans for group moves and putting them into action is how to engage international household goods removals services quickly that are capable of handling large numbers of moves simultaneously.

From our direct experience of group moves in Qatar—particularly those focused on tight, non-negotiable schedules that need to deliver fast, efficient, organized and safe services for large numbers of VIPS in a short time frame —seamless communication and professionalism at every level are the key elements to successful group moves.

Among the factors to consider when selecting a trusted provider therefore include harnessing the benefits of:

1. Accredited, reputable international removals network: Professional global removals partnerships offer speed and certainty at a time of uncertainty and anxiety. They offer both international reach and local knowledge. Consequently, they are best placed to respond effectively to regional embargoes and authorities’ deadlines. Reputable international removals networks also ensure seamless transition to home or third countries, backed by international service guarantees and financial surety. 

2. Dedicated move coordinators and account managers: Companies that offer dedicated move coordinators and account managers improve the chances of successful relocation. They ensure the highest level of communication with both corporate client and transferees.

Account managers ensure the client is fully aware of every step, while a team of dedicated coordinators makes the relocation process crystal-clear and stress-free for relocating employees.

We know from our own experiences in these situations that relocating employees particularly find this personal relationship invaluable. It also means HR teams who are supporting employees can focus on other aspects of the move as individuals’ needs and business continuity demand.

3. Removals enhanced by secure technology: Quality, client-focused global removals networks are using technology to further support personalized, responsive end-to-end global services. Account managers with access to secure state-of-the-art mobile technology can make and value household move inventories quickly. Relocating employees can also check the status of their consignment at any time, relieving uncertainty and delivering the 24-7 service they are accustomed to.

4. Access to the full range of removals and relocation services: As well as straightforward seamless removals for group moves, trusted international service providers can also extend the support they offer to you and your employees. Choices for international removals of household effects to, from and within Qatar include:

  • individual removals
  • group moves
  • groupage options available on several destinations.

Additional services that support successful group moves in Qatar at short notice include:

  • utilities disconnection
  • lease management (cancellation, renewal, negotiation)
  • home- and school-finding programs
  • orientation services
  • settling in services
  • tenancy and property management

The benefits of getting removals and relocation right

Developing well-structured, optimized plans for group moves that create economies of scale and high client satisfaction can deliver further significant cost savings.

The financial efficiency of professionally handled group moves increases when the avoidance of delays to winding up tenancy contracts, extending rental periods due to mishandled removals and their associated additional costs are factored in. These can add up to 300% of the total relocation bill.

As well as making sound financial sense, well-planned group moves, supported by dedicated and attentive account managers, provide relocating employees with confidence and a sense of security at a time when it is natural to feel anything but.