Media reports of tourists unknowingly violating strict alcohol policies in Dubai seem to be a frequent occurrence, but the country’s new law will allow foreigners entering Dubai on tourist visas to obtain a licence that will make it legal for them to buy alcohol, a provision that was previously only available to resident foreigners.
However, Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, asserted that this rule would likely do little to eradicate the confusion around alcohol-related arrests. “Very few, if any, cases have to do with the purchase of alcohol; but instead have to do with the consumption of alcohol and intoxication. People are not generally arrested for buying alcohol, but for having alcohol in their bloodstream,” she said. “Dubai has not specified a blood alcohol level to define legal intoxication, and the new law doesn’t clarify that. What the new law does is create potential revenue through the granting of licences, and further mislead people into thinking that they can buy and consume alcohol without any risks. But the same risks remain as before. You can get a licence, purchase alcohol legally, consume it legally, and the moment you step outside, you can be arrested for public intoxication based on a minuscule blood alcohol level.”
Stirling added that the plethora of pubs and bars dotted across Dubai only compounded the misconception that the country was tolerant of Western drinking culture.
“This is a serious misperception, and countless foreigners have landed in jail because of it,” Stirling said, adding that tourists should be made aware of just how easy it is to be arrested, jailed and convicted in the UAE. “Without a defined legal blood alcohol limit, a tourist can be at risk of malicious arrest even when purchasing and consuming alcohol legally. Essentially, if a person has a licence, they are allowed to buy alcohol, and are allowed to drink alcohol, but they are still not allowed to have alcohol in their bloodstream. Dubai’s announcement of the new rules, really, is just short of entrapment.”