A number of merchant establishments and service providers in some sectors continue to pass on card-processing costs to the customer. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Syrians in the UAE have been left stranded after Visa and MasterCard blocked all credit cards issued by Syrian banks.

The ban, which was put in place last week, is the result of severe US sanctions imposed on Syria in the face of violence against protesters in cities across the country.

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Syrian visitors to the UAE were shocked to find that their credit cards were not working at Dubai airport.

"When all the ATM machines in Dubai airport refused to process any of my credit card transactions, an SMS message was automatically sent to me from MasterCard informing me that I could no longer use this card," one visitor told Gulf News.

When contacted by Gulf News, Visa and MasterCard confirmed that Syrian-issued cards were no longer valid and all transactions have been blocked.

Another Syrian businessman said that an international bank had sent him a message informing him that they had closed his account.

New account

"Since I can't use my credit cards or my bank account in Syria or abroad, I have opened a new account for my business in Lebanon to process the financial transactions," he said.

"I am here in Dubai to process my financial transactions manually. Even the local banks in Dubai don't process any transaction to the Syria-based banks," he added. "We have (been) obliged to deal (in) cash."

On August 18 the United States government issued an order prohibiting "the exportation, re-exportation, sale, or supply, directly or indirectly, from the United States, or by a United States person, wherever located, of any services to Syria."

The ban on using the cards is part of the recent expanded sanctions which aim to put more pressure on the regime of President Bashar Al Assad and isolate the nation in the hope that an economic squeeze will force the government to cease its crackdown on pro-democracy campaigners.

Switch to euro

MasterCard told Gulf News that it began blocking all transactions originating in Syria on August 20 and would remain blocked until further notice.

Meanwhile, the governor of the Central Bank of Syria, Adib Mayala, announced that Syria has stopped dealing with the US dollar and switched to the euro, effective August 23.

However, Mayala remarked that most businesses continue to conduct business in dollars.