Dubai: A UAE resident said a planned family holiday to Georgia turned into a “humiliating” ordeal after the family was turned back from Georgia “without reason”.
Faizan Hassan, a Pakistani HR manager at a UAE bank in Dubai, said he, his wife and two sons – aged six months and five years – flew from Dubai to the Georgian capital Tbilisi on December 18 for a winter holiday on a Fly Dubai flight.
But the family was denied entry at passport control in Tbilisi and put on the return flight to Dubai, said Hassan, 34.
He claims they were treated rudely by officials in Tbilisi and refused an explanation.
For the family, it also meant $3,250 worth of holiday expenses going to waste.
However, an official at the Georgian embassy in Kuwait, which is accredited to the UAE, denied the claims and told Gulf News by phone that “an explanation is provided to those denied entry”.
“All persons travelling to Georgia may or may not be allowed entry, as per the Ministry of Internal Affairs,” he added.
This is at least the second case in as many months where a UAE resident has been denied entry upon arrival in Georgia, which allows UAE residents with a valid UAE visa to travel to Georgia without securing a Georgian visa beforehand.
An official at the embassy had confirmed the arrangement to Gulf News in October. UAE residents can stay up to 90 days in Georgia so long as their UAE residence visas are valid and the validity extends until the traveller’s return to the UAE.
In October, an Indian chartered accountant who lives in Ajman, said he was denied entry without an explanation.
Jainulabedin Hakimji, 36, had then told Gulf News he believes he was barred because of his long beard.
Hakimji said his clean-shaven friend who was with him was allowed in.
Hassan, who said he was born and brought up in the UAE, added that there were three other families – of Pakistani and Syrian nationality – who experienced “exactly the same story” on December 18.
He said his Dh12,000 ($3,250) worth of expenses for the botched holiday have been “wasted”.
“I’m not upset I was denied entry; that is the right of the [Georgian] government. I am upset about the way I and my family were treated, with no justification or explanation,” Hassan said.
“Upon arriving at [Tbilisi] airport we proceeded to the passport control and there, just by looking at our passports, the officer rudely told us to go to the last counter. We were then told to go and stand at a waiting point.
“During our one-hour wait, three more families – Pakistani and Syrian families with children – were asked to wait with us. They then took us to the transit area and handed us boarding passes to return to Dubai without any reason. At this point I demanded a reason and they said ‘it’s by [order of] the government of Georgia; you do not meet the profile requirements’.
“I asked for the requirements and then they called the police. All of a sudden we felt as if we were criminals. My children started to cry and they [officials] said do not do this drama because if we don’t board the flight, the police will take us to a ‘special room’ till the next flight. We boarded the same flight we came from and our passports were handed over back in Dubai.”
Hassan said he emailed a complaint to the Georgian embassy in Kuwait on December 19 but has not received a response yet.
He added that an official from the Georgian National Tourism Administration (GNTA) has replied to his email to GNTA, apologising that their trip “was ruined”.
Hassan said the official noted it was possible there could have been a problem with one of his documents, assuring him “religion is not a reason of rejection to cross the [Georgian] border”.
“But no one asked for my documents and didn’t even give me the chance to show my documents, except my passport. The authorities did not look at my ticket or hotel booking or travel insurance or my financial/property documents or the NOC letter from my company,” Hassan added.