x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Man denied UAE entry over malaria suspicions

A Ugandan man was denied entry to the UAE because he had malaria pills, according to documents.

DUBAI // A man found carrying anti-malarial tablets has been denied entry to the UAE - despite the disease not usually warranting deportation.

Kawume Prince Mugoya, a 30-year-old Ugandan, arrived at Dubai International Airport on July 16 to work as a security guard in Dubai. But, he said, he was told he could not go beyond the airport after he was found carrying anti-malarial tablets called Coartem.

He flew out the next day with a group of four other Africans aboard Kenya Airways, each of whom were thought to be carrying contagious diseases. However, records show Mr Mugoya was refused entry because of malaria, which is not contagious.

Mr Mugoya said a doctor interviewed him at the airport and noted the tablets he was carrying. But, he said, no medical tests were performed.

"He only told us that drugs from Africa were not welcome in Dubai, and if we had malaria parasites, we should go back to our country," he said.

"I had travelled with anti-malaria tablets called Coartem just for protection," Mr Mugoya said. "When the airport scanner noticed it, I was asked if I had malaria, and told them it was for protection. I was quarantined with other Africans, and we were told we were being deported."

Coartem is a popular anti-malarial in many African countries.

Everyone applying for or renewing a work or residency visa must undergo a medical fitness test. The UAE is one of about 30 countries that deports people with HIV. Other diseases for which it deports people or denies entry are tuberculosis, hepatitis B and C, leprosy and syphilis. Malaria is not usually one such disease. It is transmitted only by the bite of a certain type of mosquito, Anopheles.

Officials from the Dubai Health Authority and the Ministry of Health were not immediately available for comment.

Mr Mugoya was arriving on a work visa and had a one-way air ticket with Kenya Airways. He was made to pay for his return ticket. "I didn't have any money on me, I had sold all my possessions for an air ticket to come and work and had nothing left to sell for my deportation ticket," he said.

At Entebbe Airport in Uganda, he was made to sign an agreement with Kenya Airways that he would pay US$520 (Dh1,900) for the return ticket. His passport was confiscated until he paid. Kenya Airways confirmed that Mr Mugoya had flown back on one of their flights.

An official from the Ugandan Embassy said they were still investigating the incident.

The UAE created a malaria control department in 1977 and was declared free of malaria in 2007 by the World Health Organisation. Since then, the country has continued efforts to remain malaria-free.

ykakande@thenational.ae