A mother and her four-year-old daughter were detained in Dubai for three days in rough conditions after drinking a glass of wine on an Emirates flight.
According to The Daily Mail, Dr. Ellie Holman, a 44-year-old Swedish dentist living in the U.K., was traveling to see friends on one of her many trips to the United Arab Emirates when she was offered a glass of wine on the airplane. When entering the country, she was asked to buy a ticket and return home after a UAE immigration official claimed her visa was no longer valid. After insisting her visa was valid and requesting to apply for a new visa in the airport claiming her and her young daughter were exhausted, the immigration officer asked her if she had been drinking.
“I told him I had a glass of wine on the flight,” she claimed. “It was given to me by Emirates Airlines staff.”
According to the immigration official, possession of alcohol is forbidden in the UAE even if it is only consumed and currently in one’s system. The immigration officials later required Holman to take a blood test, where she had 0.04% of alcohol in her system, less than the legal limit of 0.08% for driving in the United States.
“The UAE maintains a deliberately misleading façade that alcohol consumption is perfectly legal for visitors,” Radha Stirling, the CEO of Detained in Dubai, the NGO representing Holman told The Daily Mail. “This is exampled by bars at the airport, by hotels, restaurants and clubs serving drinks. Tourists cannot be blamed for believing that the Emirates are tolerant of Western drinking habits but this is far from reality.”
‘It is wholly illegal for any tourist to have any level of alcohol in their blood. It is illegal to consume alcohol at a bar, a hotel and a restaurant and if breathalysed, that person will be jailed,” he added.
After Holman began to record the immigration official for evidence that he was acting “dismissive and rude,” she was arrested by police citing the recording of immigration officials as a criminal offense.
Holman and her daughter were then taken to a cell in the airport and had their passports and cell phone taken away. She also claims the police tried to rip off her hair extensions.
Holman recounts reading books to her terrified daughter in jail in the unairconditioned room and begging for water and food. She also says she and her daughter were denied a change of clothes and permission to use a toilet at one point. causing her daughter to go to the bathroom on the floor. Holman also claims she was forced to mop and clean toilets.
She claimed that when she did get food it “smelled like rotting garbage” and both she and her daughter couldn’t bring themselves to eat it.
Her husband, Kent, reportedly flew to Dubai after not hearing from her and was allowed to take his daughter home.
Holman has been released on bail but will remain in Dubai for up to a year awaiting trial and claims that the situation has already cost her “30,000 in legal fees, expenses and missed work.”