A Toronto businessman has discovered how unlucky it is to be a Canadian in the United Arab Emirates right now.
Darius Mosun, CEO of architectural fabricator Soheil Mosun, found himself stranded at a UAE airport Friday - a victim of a deepening dispute between Canada and the Arab country.
Bilateral relations soured last fall after Ottawa refused to meet demands by the Mideast country's carriers for additional landing rights at Toronto's Pearson airport. The UAE responded by kicking Canada's soldiers off a staging base near Dubai used to supply the Afghanistan war.
The UAE escalated the fight in December when it slapped visa requirements on Canadians.
Mr. Mosun ran afoul of the new visa system Friday, finding himself confined to the Abu Dhabi airport after authorities told him he had the wrong paperwork and refused to let him clear customs.
He had obtained a visa to enter the UAE but then made a side trip to Saudi Arabia and on his return was told his visa was a single-entry-only document.
Unable to leave the terminal, the businessman missed a meeting with a client in Abu Dhabi and faced a 15-hour overnight wait in the airport for a flight home.
"I lost my meeting. My client was very upset and I might lose the job as a result," he said.
"How did we get to this point? We're in this diplomatic spat and the people that are suffering are the little guys trying to drum up export business," he said.
The UAE had sought lucrative landing rights at Pearson from Ottawa after nearly a decade of allowing the Canadians to use an airport near Dubai as a staging base for the Afghanistan war. But Air Canada and federal officials alleged the UAE carriers merely wanted the flights into Toronto in order to steal international traffic.
Mr. Mosun is fed up with the Canada-UAE dispute and is disappointed the Canadian government hasn't managed to resolve its disagreement with an important Mideast trading partner.
"I am deeply concerned we are not exercising enough good will and good faith at its highest possible potential to embrace a reconciliation," the Toronto businessman said. "I just get the feeling it could have been handled differently."
Mr. Mosun's company manufactured the Wheel of Conscience monument unveiled at Canada's Immigration Museum in Halifax this past week, a ceremony attended by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. Designed by U.S. architect Daniel Libeskind, it commemorates the nearly 1,000 Jews aboard the MS St. Louis turned away from Canada on the eve of the Second World War.
He said it appears UAE officials are targeting Canadians for extra security checks during airport screening.
"We were singled out as Canadians and had to submit to eye retina scans," Mr. Mosun said. "It's embarrassing."
The businessman said his latest visit to the UAE starkly contrasts with two previous ones.
"We were welcomed with open arms" in past trips, Mr. Mosun said.
"It's very troubling to me as an entrepreneur trying to drum up work globally. We face enough challenges on the world market as it is and we're trying to solidify relationships here and the dispute isn't helping."
Speaking to The Globe on Friday, Mr. Mosun said he expected to sleep in the terminal while waiting for a return flight to Toronto.
He said being stuck inside the Abu Dhabi airport was particularly uncomfortable because his luggage had already been forwarded to Toronto.
"It's like a remake of The Terminal with Tom Hanks," Mr. Mosun said, referring to a 2004 movie about a man who was stranded inside an airport.
He said he doesn't fault the UAE government or his air carrier, Etihad, except to say that the instructions for purchasing visas were not clear.
Mr. Mosun said Canada must patch up relations because the dispute has created roadblocks for conducting business in the UAE.