AUG 22, 2018: A Dubai-based Pakistani expatriate, who was recently denied visa on arrival in Georgia, says he was deported without explanation from the country.
He has urged fellow travelers to make sure they have visas before flying to the country.
A few cases of deportation of UAE-based Pakistani residents have come to light, despite the fact that they qualify for Georgia’s visa on arrival scheme, on the basis of being UAE resident visa holders.
According to Georgia’s eVisa portal www.evisa.gov.ge, all UAE citizens and residents are qualified for visa on arrival.
A Pakistani expat, 35, who was traveling with an Indian colleague, was deported from Tbilisi International Airport last month along with several others. On June 19, Abdul Haseeb Khan and his colleague were excited about their first visit to a European country, but the excitement was short-lived and evaporated as soon as they landed in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi.
“I had been thinking of a European holiday for some time now and my friend and I zeroed down on Georgia and Armenia. I convinced my friend to pick Georgia and the only reason was its visa on arrival policy for UAE residents, but when we got there, we were shocked to be denied entry,” said Khan, a UAE resident for more than a decade.
According to Khan, his Indian friend was allowed entry; however, since the two of them were traveling together, she couldn’t go ahead with the travel plan alone.
“It was so frustrating for both of us. We had made all the plans, paid for everything and gone with valid documents. There was no reason for them to deny me entry. Although my friend got the visa, she had to return with me as she couldn’t go ahead with the trip alone. We lost our money, time and energy, as well as our leave days, apart from facing the stress over the issue,” added Khan.
He lays part of the blame on the travel operator he booked with, Holidayme, which Khan says concealed information about previous cases Pakistani expats being deported from Tbilisi airport. “We chose Holidayme because they gave us a good offer, which was Dh4,385 for two persons, which included the airfare, accommodation as well as the insurance. They gave us all the information about our stay except this probability of deportation, which they knew about since there have been many such cases before. In fact, the Holidayme staff checked our passports and confirmed that we were eligible for visa on arrival,” said Khan. He added that the travel operator did not give one hint that Pakistan nationals travelling to Georgia for the first time and without a travel history to other countries might face trouble at the immigration.
Another Pakistani expatriate, who also booked his holiday through Holidayme, claimed the travel operator mislead him as well in believing that all Pakistani nationals are eligible for visa on arrival in Georgia, despite the fact that there are daily cases of deportation from Georgia. “I wouldn’t have taken the risk if they had even dropped some hint. It is their responsibility to give a clear picture to their customers, but all they care about is making money. If I had known, I would have applied for the visa or chosen another destination. Because of this misinformation, we faced a lot of embarrassment as we were treated like criminals at Tbilisi airport,” said another traveler, who wished to be anonymous.
He added that six other Pakistani residents based in the UAE were deported along with him. They were all interrogated, treated like criminals, put back on a flight to Dubai and not handed their passports until they arrived in Dubai, where the officials ran a security check on them before letting them go, he said.
While the Georgian Embassy in Kuwait, which has diplomatic jurisdiction for all GCC countries, was not immediately available for comments, a spokesperson for Holidayme said the company doesn’t take any responsibility for visa issuance. “The visa approval/issuance is always at discretion of the immigration office, even if it’s available on arrival. The Georgia official visa portal does not state any limitation for Pakistani nationals with a valid UAE residence visa,” said Mayank Ahuja, assistant vice-president at Holidayme. He added that his firm clearly states in all its packages that the visa advice given is to support the customers in the visa application process.
“Holidayme never plays a role in getting the visa. Unless clearly stated by the government or immigration office, we cannot deem any nationalities as restricted entry to Georgia or any other country. We simply do not have that authority and if we would do that, then we would be misleading customers,” he said.