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UAE Won't Confirm African Ban, Serbia Limits Visas

FILE - In this July 6, 2020 file photo, the front desk staff wearing masks due to the coronavirus pandemic help customers at the Rove City Centre Hotel in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Hundreds of thousands of foreign residents of the UAE are struggling t

The United Arab Emirates has failed to confirm or deny media reports that it had issued a visa ban on nationals from more than a dozen African nations, and the Dominican Republic from entering its capital Dubai.

Last week, news of the UAE banning citizens of 20 African nations and the Dominican Republic was widely reported by local media outlets in some of the affected nations, claiming that the move comes as the Gulf nation clamps down on the number of Africans who visit the country on tourism visas, overstay their visas and work illegally.

A Washington embassy official who did not want to be named told VOA in an email response that the report was fake. The official then followed-up and requested VOA not to publish the article, because ''something new'' was coming in from Abu Dhabi.

On Tuesday, VOA made another attempt to get official quotes from the embassy - the media and public diplomacy office said ''nothing had been heard from Abu Dhabi.''

Visa bans on mostly African nations are disturbingly rampant. Last week, airlines operating in Burundi begun warning customers that they will not be able to travel to Serbia without securing visas.

The Balkan state's move came from pressure by the EU to end its visa-free entry program with Burundi and Tunisia beginning on November 20, according to one of the largest visa information publishing websites,

Serbia is one of seven current EU candidate countries trying to join the 27-member EU bloc.

On Monday, the decision left more than 50 of Burundian nationals enroute to Serbia stranded at airports in Qatar and Turkey following the announcement.

Since the start of 2022, more than 20,000 Burundian nationals have been using the bilateral deal between both countries to travel in large numbers to Serbia. They then use a route to other European countries like Belgium, Switzerland, Italy and others to seek asylum.

The Serbian government said the decision to end the agreement, signed with Burundi in early 2020, was due to security reasons and to clamp down on a large influx of Burundian asylum seekers using it as a route to European countries.

The number of Burundian seeking EU asylum rose 8-fold in the last three months, according to Belgium-based La Libre newspaper. Around 90 percent of these have used Serbia has a route.

Burundi’s foreign affairs ministry spokesperson, Sonia Ines Niyubahwe told VOA that it is not unusual for a country to take such measures to ensure its security.

“Implementation of such agreements is usually done in accordance with the level of bilateral relations and trust between signatory countries. The agreement usually includes [that] a country may take measures to limit the number of people who enters on its territory”, she told VOA Central Africa Service’s Claver Niyonkuru.

The European Union has welcomed the development, with Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi tweeting "...Serbia took an important step today to align with the EU's list of visa required third countries.''

Other EU asylum seekers include Rwandans, Congolese, Tanzanians and nationals of other countries in the Great Lakes region.