Ellie Holman, the British tourist who was recently embroiled in a row with Emirati immigration officials, acknowledged her visa "mistake" in an exclusive interview to U.K. tabloid MailOnline.
The National reports Holman, whose real name is Elham Reza Reza Sateei (sic), was traveling on an invalid visa, which stated she had no children accompanying her, with her daughter Bibi.
“At Dubai International airport, she handed over her Iranian passport at the immigration desk. The officer's computer told him that her visa had already been used two months earlier, which Ellie acknowledges was her mistake,” MailOnline stated.
“He advised Ellie to get a transit visa, which would allow her to stay in the country for the duration of her five-day trip.”
The situation escalated after Holman started filming the officer.
A woman was reportedly detained in Dubai for three days, along with her four-year-old daughter, after immigration officials found out that her visa was invalid and that she consumed wine on the flight.
Ellie Holman, 44, came to the United Arab Emirates with her daughter for a few days break to spend time with her friends. She lives in Kent, England, with her partner and their three children.
Upon her arrival, she was questioned about the status of her visa by an immigration officer. The officer found that Holman’s visa was invalid and instructed her to leave the country immediately.
Holman claimed the officer “dismissive and rude.” She said she asked him if she could buy another visa that is when she was questioned if she had consumed alcohol on the flight. The woman filmed the entire incident without knowing it was an offense.
She was then put in a cell with her daughter, Bibi. Their passports were taken away and her phone was confiscated. She was also not given a chance to inform her partner back in England.
An NGO representing Holman said initially, the pair was not given food and water and later they were forced to clean toilets while they were in custody. They also added that the four-year-old was “terrified” by the experience.
The woman also described the cell as hot and “foul-smelling” and said she and her daughter were made to sleep on “filthy mattress.”
“My little girl had to go to the toilet on the cell floor. I have never heard her cry in the same way as she did in that cell. The food [we were given] smelled like rotting garbage and neither Bibi, or I could face trying it,” Holman told the NGO.
She added, “I stayed awake for the whole three days. By now, Gary knew something was wrong and had flown to Dubai to look for me. Friends had found out I was in jail and tried to visit. Nobody was allowed to see us. We were not even told.”
After being in custody for three days, Holman and her daughter were released on bail. However, her passport was not returned and will be with authorities until the case is resolved.
Her partner and children flew to Dubai to meet her and she is now spending time with her children while her partner took Bibi back to England.
“The UAE maintains a deliberately misleading facade that alcohol consumption is perfectly legal for visitors. Tourists cannot be blamed for believing that the Emirates are tolerant of western drinking habits, but this is far from reality,” said Radha Stirling, the chief executive of Detained in Dubai.
She added, “It is wholly illegal for any tourist to have any level of alcohol in their blood, even if consumed in flight and provided by Dubai’s own airline. It is illegal to consume alcohol at a bar, a hotel and a restaurant, and if breathalyzed, that person will be jailed.”
Holman now awaits a court hearing and faces being detained in the country for a year.
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