Browsing 'security' News

 

Khalifa StadiumBy some estimates, the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar is going to cost the tiny Gulf nation approximately US $220 billion. This is about 60 times the $3.5 billion that South Africa spent on the 2010 edition. The 2014 World Cup in Brazil roughly cost $11.63 billion.

There’s a lot at stake, which is continually pushing Qatar to add more and more muscle to its security measures. The eruption of opposition to Qatar hosting this great event ever since it won the bid in December, 2010, is also a concern, prompting the country to form alliances to ensure safe passage of the tournament.

Since this would be the first-of-its-kind experience for Qatar, it has formed association with various security agencies to derive the necessary knowledge and expertise, such as the International Police Organisation (Interpol) and the International Centre for Sport Security (ICSS). The aim of these associations is to understand the security and safety implications, as well as sharing the record of possible threats so that proactive measures can be installed to tackle them.

The latest alliance is with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

The Emir of Qatar, HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, and the Secretary-General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, on Wednesday signed the agreement on military and security cooperation and also discussed various challenges facing the region and the world as a whole, along with the promotion of international peace and security. This will play a major role in achieving Qatar’s objective of ensuring regional peace and security, which is critical to the success of the FIFA World Cup 2022.

Qatar’s objective of beefing up security also has a historical context to it, with the threat of terror being almost as critical as the actual attacks themselves.

Blasts from the past

Munich Attack-1972

The Olympics experienced its darkest day during the 1972 Munich Games. The Palestinian militant group, Black September, took the Israeli national team hostage, in the end butchering eleven athletes and coaches, along with a German police officer after a 16-hour clash.

The beautiful game turned ugly in 2002 when Basque separatist group, E.T.A., detonated a car bomb close to Madrid’s main stadium, the Bernabau, hours before the start of Real Madrid’s Champions League semi-final against arch rivals Barcelona.

Ahead of the Beijing Games, China deployed a considerable security presence, claiming it had thwarted a terrorist hijacking plot. It warned it faced further threats in its Muslim-majority northwest. Five days prior to the lighting up of the flames, there was an attack by Muslim separatists in the city of Kashgar in China’s far western Xinjiang region, which left 16 policemen dead and an equal number severely injured.

In late 2015, Paris was hit by a series of attacks. It all started outside the national football stadium in Saint Denis and ended with the infamous standoff at the Bataclan Theatre. In

December 2016, a football stadium in Istanbul was witness to a horrific car explosion. And in April, 2017, the team bus of Borussia Dortmund faced a series of controlled explosions just as it left the team hotel, injuring one player…

 

Al Rayyan TV/Twitter

Riot police on display at 2014 National Day parade

As part of preparations for the 2022 World Cup, security forces in the country are learning how to manage the hundreds of thousands of fans expected to attend the tournament.

As part of their training, the Armed Forces and military police have recently completed their first unit on riot control.

QNA reports that the four-month course focused on developing skills to deal with crowd control, stadium security and rules about dealing with riots.

Navin Sam / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

There were also sessions on different types of weapons and gear used by riot police, as well as control and arrest techniques.

The training was held at the Military Police School. It attended by members of the Emiri Land Forces Command, several military police commenders, members of the Joint Special Forces Group and the Emiri Border Command.

Foreign assistance

The government didn’t specify who was conducting the training sessions.

But over the past few years, Qatar has partnered with various police forces in Canada, France and the UK to help improve its ability to manage large crowds and maintain order before the tournament.

Help aside, Qatar already has strong riot prevention protocols in place within the country.

Peter Kovessy / Doha News

Riot police arrive in buses to the Sheraton Hotel in 2014.

For example, a big fight broke out in 2014 between construction workers and security guards at the under-renovation Sheraton Doha hotel. At the time, four buses of riot troops responded to the scene.

While protests are rare in Qatar, authorities take them very seriously due to the high number of construction workers in the country.

Thoughts?

MOI

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Despite security concerns from the US, a recent audit of Qatar’s Hamad International has found it to be one of the safest airports in the world, officials said.

The results come amid an indefinite ban on laptops and tablets onboard flights from Doha and nine other Middle Eastern cities to the US.

The US Department of Homeland Security said the move was made in response to concerns about potential terrorist attacks.

Richard Lee/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

However, Qatar apparently scored highly in a February audit by the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO).

According to the Ministry of Interior (MOI), here are some of the scores Qatar received from the ICAO’s Universal Security Audit Program (USAP):

  • 99.1 percent for protecting aviation against unlawful interference (i.e terrorism and smuggling);
  • 96.76 percent for implementing safety management; and
  • 100 percent in a section that related to customs and immigration processes.

The USAP results “proved that HIA is one of the safest airports in the world,” the head of the Qatar Aviation Authority (QCAA) said.

Caveats

However, it is difficult to assess how Qatar measured up against other nations.

This is because results of ICAO security audits are usually kept secret.

Speaking to Doha News, a representative from the organization said, “we cannot make public or otherwise confirm anything to do with security audit findings.”

Hussain Didi/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

In the past, only a few nations have chosen to share their scores with the public.

In November 2015 for example, Indian aviation authorities disclosed that they had been given scores of 99.23 percent and 99.59 per cent in two ICAO audit areas.

And in April 2016, Nigerian authorities said they had scored an average of 96 percent in a similar audit.

MOI

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar’s MOI did not respond to requests for more details about the country’s scores or world ranking.

Another notable fact about the audits is that countries are given at least four months notice before they are conducted.

And they have the opportunity to accept or reject suggested audit dates, according to USAP guidelines.

Significant improvement

Still, the average of the three scores shared by Qatar officials – 98.6 percent – is a big improvement from the nation’s 2012 overall score of 78.76 percent.

That was when flights were still departing from Doha International Airport.

MOI/Twitter

Ministry of Interior office at Hamad International Airport

Speaking to QNA, Director of Airport Security Brig. Essa Arar Al Rumaihi credited the higher score to a combination of better training and an investment in new technology over the past five years.

HIA has has apparently trained more than 1,000 security personnel since it opened in 2014.

It has also purchased new “inspection” devices that airport officials say will speed up the movement of passengers through security checkpoints.

More details about these devices have not been shared, but officials said that they were being used “for the first time in the world” at HIA.

A ‘smart airport’

Meanwhile, officials continue to work on introducing a “smart traveler” system at the airport, plans for which were announced last year.

The goal is to automate almost all processes at the airport, from bag weighing to boarding pass printing to e-gates and boarding the aircraft.

Speaking about the plans this week, Airport Security Department director Brig Essa Arrar al-Rumaihi said:

“The vision is that travelers can complete all travel procedures electronically without any human interference.”

The move should help with wait times at the over-capacity airport, as well as reduce costs for operators.

Immigration queues

Among the new processes is e-gate, which fast-tracks residents through immigration. This service was rolled out free of charge to adults living in Qatar late last year.

According to airport officials, making it free has caused many more people to avail of the service in the past several months.

But because it is not open to children, some travelers still face lengthy waits at immigration.

Thoughts?