The decision by seven countries to start sanctions against the Gulf State of Qatar is impacting on the lives and wealth of hundreds of thousands of expats.
The tiny nation sandwiched between the Arabian Gulf and Saudi Arabia is home to 2.7 million, but the majority are expats.
Most are low-status workers from places such as India, Bangladesh and the Philippines, but the population also has large expat contingents from the UK (25,000), China (10,000), Canada (9500), South Africa (6,500 and Australia (5,500).
Many work for state enterprises or multinational companies who are looking at plans to protect their businesses as the sanctions start to bite.
The gang of seven – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and the Maldives – accuse Qatar of working with Iran-backed terrorists and adopting policies that led to insecurity in the region.
Terror and instability
The seven have cut air and land transport links with Qatar and the capital Doha.
The sanctions are expected to quickly show results as Qatar is supplied mainly by road from Saudi Arabia. The trade route delivers almost half the country’s food and much of the construction material for the eight new World Cup stadiums and other infrastructure developments.
“Qatar embraces multiple terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at disturbing stability in the region,” said a statement from Saudi Arabia.
“Qatar has also supported the activities of the Iranian-backed terrorist groups in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. It has also financed, adopted and is harbouring extremists who seek to destabilise unity at home and abroad.”
The Al-Jazeera news channel is also based and financed from Qatar.
Trade and transport blockade
The government in Qatar expressed ‘regret and surprise’ at the move.
Gulf state airlines have suspended flights to and from Doha, while Qatari aircraft are banned from their airspace.
This is not the first time Qatar has been the target of a blockade.
The Saudis, the UAE and Bahrain imposed similar restrictions in 2014 which lasted eight weeks.
At the bottom of the row is an ongoing push for influence in the region between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the two major local powers.