An Indian Muslim man who traveled to Georgia but was denied entry last week has claimed he was not allowed entry because of his beard.
“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,” Jainulabedin Hakimji, an Indian based in Ajman, UAE said.
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“They said they cannot let me in for security reasons. I asked on what grounds. 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,” Hakimji said while speaking to Gulf News.
The 36-year-old chartered accountant flew from Dubai to Tbilisi, Georgia on October 14 with a colleague for a three-day leisure trip. However, at the border control he was denied entry whereas his colleague, who queued up at a different counter, was granted entry.
Hakimji alleged that the only difference between him and his colleague was that the latter was clean-shaven. Further, he said he informed the immigration officials that his colleague had the same UAE resident visa from the same company and was of the same religion.
The accountant further said he was treated like a criminal at the airport. “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.”
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However, the embassy of Georgia based in Kuwait that has jurisdiction over the UAE said the accusation was 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.
Moreover, the official maintained that the accusation was wrong since Georgia had opened its borders to Muslims and Arab countries. “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.”
However, the Georgian official said that it was the discretion of border control officials to allow or disallow travellers to enter the country.
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Hakimji said that he 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. I wasted Dh2,000 worth of air tickets and hotel bookings in the process.”
Hakimji was given a document by the Georgian Border Police which detailed that a traveler 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. However, none of these boxes were ticked in Hakimji’s case.
This article originally appeared on Gulf News
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