x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Student stranded in Abu Dhabi after US embassy shutdown

Backlogs in workload after closure means the wait goes on for those requiring consular services.

The US Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the US Consulate in Dubai were shut as a precautionary measure because of intelligence pointing at a possible Al Qaeda terrorist attack. Sammy Dallal / The National
The US Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the US Consulate in Dubai were shut as a precautionary measure because of intelligence pointing at a possible Al Qaeda terrorist attack. Sammy Dallal / The National

ABU DHABI // It was business as usual at United States diplomatic missions yesterday - but too late for one frustrated student to start college in Florida.

Mohammed Hindi's passport is stuck in a backlog at the US embassy in Abu Dhabi, one of 18 embassies and consulates in the region that reopened a week after an Al Qaeda terror threat shut them down.

Mr Hindi, 22, was due to collect his documents last Monday to fly out and begin a three-year degree course in business and marketing at St Petersburg College.

After the closure he visited the embassy yesterday to retrieve his passport and US visa, but returned empty handed. The delay means he will now be at least a week late in beginning his studies, and he has had to pay a Dh360 penalty to cancel his flight ticket.

"I was pretty frustrated," said Mr Hindi, a Jordanian born and brought up in Abu Dhabi. "Now I'm one week late. I have cancelled all my tickets. I didn't reschedule because there was no guarantee when I would get my passport back. As soon as I get it back, I am going to reschedule. I will be very relieved."

Mr Hindi still does not know when he will be able to travel, and will visit the embassy again tomorrow.

The US embassy in Abu Dhabi and consulate in Dubai said students who had scheduled an appointment for a visa last week should visit the missions between 10am and 11am any day this week.

The US embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, is the only diplomatic post to remain closed because of security concerns. Separately, the US consulate in the Pakistani city of Lahore was closed on Thursday because of another threat.

Elsewhere at US missions in the Middle East and North Africa, including the embassy in Abu Dhabi and consulate in Dubai, the doorswere open and staff back at work.

"It is business as usual," said Jeff Ladenson, public affairs officer at the embassy in Abu Dhabi.

The diplomatic posts were closed to the public because of what the US state department called an "abundance of caution" on Sunday, August 4, after an intercepted message between Al Qaeda militant leaders indicated plans for a terror attack.

The threat led to an order from the state department for all non-emergency government personnel at the US embassy in Yemen to leave the country.

Mr Ladenson said the two UAE missions had kept the public informed and had announced the reopenings via their website and social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

"On Sunday, August 11, the Department of State will reopen 18 of the 19 embassies and consulates that were closed recently," a message on the embassy's website in Abu Dhabi read at the weekend.

"Our embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, will remain closed because of ongoing concerns about a threat stream indicating the potential for terrorist attacks emanating from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Our consulate in Lahore, Pakistan, which closed due to a separate credible threat to that facility, will also remain closed.

"We will continue to evaluate the threats to Sanaa and Lahore and make subsequent decisions about the reopening of those facilities based on that information.

"We will also continue to evaluate information about these and all of our posts and to take appropriate steps to best protect the safety of our personnel, American citizens travelling overseas and visitors to our facilities."

jbell@thenational.ae