World Cup: Six laws British people should be aware of before heading to Qatar

World Cup: Six laws British people should be aware of before heading to Qatar

In Qatar, there are a number of laws that Britons could break inadvertently and face severe punishments for, as the country is known for having stricter laws than the UK.

‌Undoubtedly the largest event in the footballing calendar, the decision to hold the World Cup in Qatar sparked controversy due to its record on human rights.

This week, James Cleverly, the foreign secretary advised LGBT football fans attending the World Cup in Qatar to "show a little bit of elasticity and compromise."

Within hours, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said LGBT fans should not be expected to “compromise who they are” if they visit Qatar for the World Cup.

Then, Australia, who will play at the tournament, released a collective statement against Qatar’s human rights record, becoming the first 2022 World Cup team to do so.

The video statement criticised the World Cup hosts’ treatment of migrant workers and LGBTQ+ people, saying the “suffering” felt by workers and their families caused by the tournament “cannot be ignored”.

The 16 Australian players involved in the video acknowledged some reforms such as the criminalisation of same-sex relationships and the abolition of the ‘kafala’ system - this gave companies the power to seize employees' passports and prevent them from leaving the country.

“We stand with FIFPro, the Building and Wood Workers International, and the International Trade Union Confederation, seeking to embed reforms and establish a lasting legacy in Qatar.

“This must include establishing a migrant resource centre, effective remedy for those who have been denied their rights, and the decriminalisation of all same-sex relationships.”

Aruna Verma, Programme and Student Lead at The University of Law, explains the rules that Britons travelling for the World Cup should be careful not to break.

1. Alcohol

In Qatar, not only is it important to note that the legal drinking age is 21, but alcohol is also only available to be purchased at licensed hotel restaurants and bars.

While it remains legal for tourists and non-Muslims to drink in private, drinking to the point of intoxication and drinking in public spaces are punishable by law.

“Drinking in public places in Qatar could result in a prison sentence of up to six months or a fine of nearly £70,” explained Aruna Verma.

“It is also illegal to import alcohol into the country, so avoid buying anything in duty-free or it will get confiscated, and you could be arrested.”

2. Drugs

Like the UK, Qatar has a zero-tolerance policy for drugs-related offences and the penalties are severe for even the smallest amount. Even carrying common prescription and over-the-counter drugs can be a criminal offence, including medications like codeine, Xanax, and Diazepam.

“If you need to take prescription medicine away with you, make sure you have your prescription on hand or a letter from your GP detailing the drug, quantity, and dosage to avoid legal complications,” recommends Verma. “In Qatar, punishment for drugs-related offences can include fines, deportation, and even the death penalty.”

3. Smoking and vaping

Laws in Qatar do not allow for the sale, purchase, or importation of e-cigarettes, vape, liquids, or related products.

Bringing any of these through airport customs is likely to result in confiscation, so it is best to avoid them altogether.

“The ban on vapes came into action in 2014 and punishment for the sale, purchase, or even advertisement of the product can range from £2,000 fines to several months in prison,” explained Verma.

4. Offensive behaviour

Brits travelling to Qatar should be cautious of laws around profanities, as swearing and making rude gestures can actually result in a jail sentence or even deportation.

According to Verma: “Not only should you avoid bad language when out in public but, in Qatar, simply pointing your finger at someone can also be seen as insulting, so you should probably avoid this so as to not upset anyone.”

5. Dress Codes

As a Muslim country, Qatar has some strict dress codes that tourists should follow. When in public and even while driving, you should dress modestly.

Verma explained: “Men and women are advised not to wear shorts or sleeveless tops when visiting shopping centres, health-care facilities, or government buildings. Women should also cover their shoulders and avoid short skirts in general.”

6. Relationships

Like many Muslim countries, relationships are considered a private matter in Qatar and there are particular strict rules for LGBTQ+ people.

Aruna Verma added: “For anyone in a romantic relationship, signs of intimacy can be considered an offence and should be avoided. Any homosexual relations are also regarded as illegal in Qatar, while non-married couples are not allowed to share a bed or have sex.

“While the administration for the Qatari World Cup has publicly confirmed that no restrictions on non-married friends or couples staying in the same room will be imposed (as cited on the UK Government’s travel advice), legal rights and protections for LGBTQ+ fans remain widely debated in the run-up to the tournament.”