Drama at Doha Airport

On Saturday, June 14, shortly after the Qatar Airline plane carrying some members of the Nigeria Supporters Club and the TELL reporter arrived Doha International Airport, a mild drama ensued. It began shortly after the Qatar Airline officials collected the visas of Nigerians heading to Brazil enroute Doha, which included about 22 members of Nigeria Supporters Club,  in order to issue us transit visa that would enable us spend time in a hotel in Doha, courtesy of Qatar Airline, since we had seven to eight hours interregnum before we could connect a flight to Brazil via the same Qatar Airline.

But, about an hour after collecting the passports, a staff of the airline called and informed us that the immigration officials had declined granting the transit visas. While the Qatar airline staff was explaining the point, with the intention of handing us over our passports, one of the supporters club members told his colleagues  not to collect the passports as, according to him, the only reason they had refused to issue the transit visas was “because we are Nigerians.”

He informed us that some white people were earlier issued transit visas and wondered whether those people were in anyway better than Nigerians. He argued that Qatar airline, as a matter of  policy, issues transit visa to travellers who spend  at least 6 hours in Doha before  getting a connecting flight on the same trip.  Another Nigerian Supporters Club member said that the refusal to issue the transit visas smacked of racism! Both statements appeared to sit well with the majority who asked that the passports remain with the Qatar airline until the transit visas were granted. The Nigerians stance led the Qatar airline officials to return to the immigration department only to come back with the same story. The immigration officials would not grant the transit visas, we were again told. When the airline officials were put to task by the

Nigerians, contradictions emerged in their different explanations which happened within about thirty minutes of each other. The first explanation from a female staff was that though the immigration officials refused to grant the visa, the hotel where we would have been lodged was undergoing repairs, meaning that the company would still not be able to lodge us in a hotel if the visas were granted.

Another female official of the airline later denied that, contrary to what one of us said, the airline only offers accommodation to passengers spending more than eight hours in transit. She insisted that issuance of transit visas was at the discretion of the immigration department and that it had nothing to do with Qatar Airline. Then the third rationalization was by a Nigerian staff of the airline who said that the refusal to grant the transit visa might not be unconnected to insecurity challenges in Nigeria and the fact that some Nigerians were found missing in the Arab emirate after transit visas had been issued to them.

These explanations however, didn’t make sense to the Nigerians who still insisted on their “right”. Dibi Yinkore,  the vice chairman, Delta State chapter of the Nigeria Supporters Club and some other member’s efforts to make the immigration officials see reason, however, failed to yield fruit, as the immigration officials and a security official, who also later came to address us, failed to budge. They asked the airline officials to take us somewhere within the airport where we could relax. In the end, when all efforts to make the immigration officials change their mind failed, the supporters club members decided not to create further scene, and agreed  to be taken to the relaxation room in the airport as well as accept the meal ticket earlier offered each person to unwind at a restaurant.

That was how the matter, or perhaps drama,  came to an end.

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