Over the past several days, there have been enormous backups at the UAE border crossing with Saudi Arabia at Al Guwaifat. The tailbacks, sometimes reaching as much as 32km in length, are now down to only 12-15km, but in 50° C (122° F) heat, drivers are falling ill and spend much of their time and money looking for fuel, water, and ice to protect perishable goods.
What’s behind this? There may not be a single answer. Some see enhanced implementation of border crossing requirements, as this Gulf News article reports:
Saudi officials set terms to resolve truck backlog at border
Riyadh: Customs fees applicable on the goods sent to Saudi Arabia through the UAE must be paid at the border, insisted Saudi officials on Sunday, during a meeting with UAE delegation to find a solution to the truck backlog at the UAE-Saudi border.
Saudi customs also want to implement the ban imposed around two weeks back against the entry of used cars that are more than five-years old.
There are also rumors circulating in the region saying that the tightening at the border is ‘pay back’ for the UAE’s demand that the GCC Central Bank be headquartered in Dubai and not in Riyadh. While that’s not implausible, I’ve nothing to back it up.
Khaleej Times reports on the ordeal of the drivers:
AL GHUWAIFAT – ‘Snail’s pace’ will be an exaggeration of the speed at which 49-year-old Yahya Aloush Mohamed has been driving his truck in the Al Ghuwaifat area over the past few days.
His truck has covered only 13km since it joined the huge line-up of the vehicles about five days back. Now he is waiting at the parking lot near the UAE border not knowing when he would get Customs clearance and proceed to Riyadh to deliver the packaging materials to a cement company there.
“I hail from Syria and have been ?driving vehicles for the last 29 years. I have worked in Saudi Arabia, in the erstwhile USSR and in the UAE as driver, apart from Syria. I have not undergone such an ordeal so far before,” Yahya Aloush told Khaleej Times.
The situation is turning into a humanitarian crisis, reports The National from the UAE:
Stranded drivers falling ill in heat
Essam al Ghalib and Zoi Constantine
AL GHUWAIFAT // The plight of lorry drivers at the Saudi border is a “humanitarian crisis”, according to a hospital doctor in the nearby town of Sila.
The doctor, who works in the accident and emergency department at Ba’aya al Sila Hospital, said the drivers had a range of often serious symptoms after being trapped for days in the extreme summer heat.
Two days earlier a man had been brought to the hospital hallucinating and covered in sand.
Several people had seen him on his stomach, apparently trying to swim through the sand because he believed he was in the sea.
“We have been getting two or three cases of drivers coming in per day due to renal colic, heat stroke and diabetic emergencies,” said the doctor. “The drivers are suffering because they cannot keep their air conditioning on or else they will run out of gas. This is truly a humanitarian crisis.”