Thursday, April 28, 2005

Travel Advisory

The British Foreign Office is advising potential travellers to the UAE to ensure that they do not bring medicines containing codeine into the UAE. Codeine is banned here, and possession of it carries a maximum four year jail sentence. But here's the thing, 'possession' is deemed to occur even if you have consumed the stuff some time previously (and someplace else on the planet) and are still carrying traces of it in your wee or your blood. And here's the other thing, in the UK and most of the rest of the world, products containing codeine are available by prescription and in some cases directly over the counter from a pharmacist.

Yesterday a British visitor to Dubai was sentenced to four years in jail because she was found to have taken codeine. This is somewhat shocking, especially as she had been prescribed the med by a doctor in the UK, did not physically bring any tablets into the country, and probably did not have the slightest idea that it would be a problem here.

Come to that, I've lived here for 11 years, and was only vaguely aware that some commonplace Western meds are banned in the UAE. But I had absolutely no idea that 'possession' could carry a four year jail sentence. I can't say exactly what I think about this (I'm pretty sure there's a BlogCop Division at CID), but I think I can say that this sentence does nobody any good, and if it gets major publicity in the UK it will certainly damage the Dubai tourist trade.

Nobody wants to visit a country where you can get thrown in jail so easily for something that you did completely legally in your own country.

See Scotland on Sunday and Gulf News .

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