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Growing concern about UAE's vague drug laws and lack of access to definitive information.

Blog post   •   Jan 16, 2018 10:52 GMT

Growing confusion around United Arab Emirates’ drugs laws is causing concern amongst those wishing to travel to the UAE with prescription medications.

The growing confusion around United Arab Emirates’ drug laws is causing concern amongst those wishing to travel to the UAE with prescription medications.

Many medications taken regularly in other countries fall into the ‘Class A Psychotropics’ classification in the UAE. For medications in this category the advice is clear in the Ministry of Health ‘guidelines for the carrying of personal medicines with travelers into the United Arab Emirates’, they are that: “The traveler should have in his/her possession the documents (in Arabic or English.)

  • i. A valid medical prescription, if the original of the prescription is retained in the pharmacy that dispensed the preparation, the traveler should keep an attested copy of the prescription.
  • ii. Authenticated certificate and/or permit, from the health authority of the country of departure, confirming his/her legal authority to possess, for personal use, medical preparations mentioned therein.
  • iii. Amount of medicines carrying of by any travelers should not be exceeded for a period of 30 days of treatment.”

However, this is exactly what Perry Coppins, who recently appeared in the international press had done. He was carrying medicines into the UAE which fall into the Class ‘A’ categopry. In this case, Mr Coppins was arrested because a customs official objected to the amount of medications Perry was carrying.

Perry finally made it back to the UK this week, but only after an international campaign by Detained in Dubai persuaded UAE authorities to intervene and dismiss the case.

The degrading treatment and suffering faced by Mr Coppins, who was deprived of prescription medication he had been taking for 21 years (causing  major physical and mental withdrawal) has prompted worried travelers to contact Detained in Dubai for advice about specific drugs.

The advice on the UAE Ministry of Health website states, ”if you have an enquiry email this department.”  So, the Detained in Dubai team emailed four times to different email addresses to request clarification on permissible medicines. As there was no reply, they sent additional messages to the government agency’s Facebook inboxes. All of this went unanswered and calls to phone numbers listed online found that the numbers are no longer in service.

Connor Clemments was arrested in the UAE for traces of medical marijuana found in his blood tests. He had been using an extract called Sativex, which had he been taking legally in the UK to control anxiety before traveling to the UAE. Sativex doesn’t appear in any of the banned substances lists for the UAE, nor did Connor possess the medicine, except in his bloodstream.

One woman contacted Detained in Dubai after reading about Perry and Connor and said that her own prescription medication fell under the UAE’s Class A Psychotropics list. She was planning a trip to Dubai, and wanted to ensure her safety. In an attempt to get the information, Detained in Dubai called the UAE Embassy in London directly.

Disconcertingly, embassy staff said they are also waiting for updated advice from UAE Ministry of Health too.

When questioned directly about specific drugs they repeated the website’s advice, i.e. to bring along a prescription to avoid any legal issues. When it was pointed out to them that this is what Mr Coppins had done, the line went silent. They don’t have further advice currently, we were told.

Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, asks “How can travellers feel safe transiting to or through Dubai International Airport, without official advice necessary to prevent  arrest?

“The UAE needs to get its advice up to date immediately to prevent more arrests and make access to advice as easy as possible.   Our researchers have tried every available route to make contact without success. We expect it is the same for the general public. ”

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