Dubai: A UAE resident who travelled to Georgia but was denied entry last week said he was not allowed entry because of his “appearance”. A Georgian envoy, however, denied this.
Jainulabedin Hakimji, 36, an Indian based in Ajman, flew from Dubai to Tbilisi on October 14 with a colleague for a three-day leisure trip for the Hijri New Year. At the border control, his colleague, who queued up at a different counter, was granted entry. Hakimji, on the other hand, was not.
“When she saw me the lady at the counter immediately called another officer and directed me to go to the last counter without looking at my passport. They said they cannot let me in for security reasons. I asked on what grounds,” the chartered accountant, who has been working in the UAE for eight years, told Gulf News.
Hakimji said he informed the immigration officials that his colleague, who was travelling with him and had the same UAE resident visa from the same company and was of the same religion, was allowed entry. Their only difference, he said, was Hakimji’s colleague was clean-shaven.
“They did not let me in because of my appearance. I am a Muslim and I’m strictly following the religion, that is why I have a long beard,” he said.
“While waiting for the flight back, there was an officer assigned to me. I wanted to go to the washroom but he said I was not allowed to go. They treated me as if I was a criminal.”
When contacted, the embassy of Georgia based in Kuwait that has jurisdiction over the UAE said the accusation is baseless.
“The decision to allow a person to enter or not is the decision only of the Ministry of Interior. But our rules are the same that all UAE residents may enter Georgia and stay there for 90 days without getting a visa [before travel],” an official told Gulf News in a phone interview from Kuwait.
“For the accusation that [border control] denied Mr Hakimji entry because he’s a Muslim and because of his appearance, this is completely wrong because Georgia has opened its borders to Muslim countries, Arab countries, for their citizens regardless of their religion,” the official added.
According to the document issued by the Georgian Border Police to Hakimji, a traveller to Georgia can be barred entry for not having necessary travel documents, for forging documents or providing false information, non-payment of previous immigration fines, not having enough funds, health and accident insurance for his stay in Georgia, of if the person is thought to have the intention of illegally staying in Georgia after his visa expiry. None of these boxes were ticked in Hakimji’s case.
Hakimji was ordered to be deported for the reason “in order cases provided for by the legislation of Georgia,” which the father-of-three said was unclear.
“They told me that the next time I visit Georgia, I should check their website and key in my details that I’m Indian and make no mention that I’m a UAE resident. They said I should print it out and take it with me on my next visit,” Hakimji said. “I wasted Dh2,000 worth of air tickets and hotel bookings in the process.”
The Georgian official said it’s the discretion of border control officials to allow or disallow travellers to enter the country. He stressed that UAE residents as per their policy can travel to Georgia without securing a visa. They can stay up to 90 days so long as their UAE visas are valid and the validity extends until the traveller’s return to the UAE.