Swedish mother arrested with her daughter on arrival in Dubai

Published:  11 Aug at 6 PM
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A Swedish national mother of three travelling with her four-year old daughter was jailed in Dubai for drinking one glass of wine during her flight.

Dentist Ellie Holman had arrived in Dubai from London, along with her four-year old daughter Bibi, and was pulled up at immigration as her visa from a previous visit had only been issued for a single entry although it wasn’t yet out of date. She was told by an immigration official she’s have to return to the UK on the next available flight, but pleaded for a new visa application as her daughter was exhausted. When this was refused, an argument resulted, accelerating when the immigration officer asked her if she’d been drinking. Her reply was that she’d had a single glass of wine, served with her dinner by the stewardess, at which point the officer told her possession of alcohol is a crime in the UAE.

She attempted to film the angry immigration officer on her phone, but found herself surrounded by police who told her filming airport staff was also illegal. Police confiscated her phone and passport and arrested her, taking her and her daughter to a cell. She pleaded unsuccessfully for water and food and wasn’t allowed to use the toilet, and her daughter was terrified as she was unable to understand what was happening. A blood test was taken, revealing just 0.04 per cent of alcohol in her blood – far less than the UK’s drink-drive limit.

As soon as her partner Gary was informed of her plight, he flew to the UAE and collected Bibi, but Dr Holman is now staying with friends in Dubai until the matter is resolved. He told reporters the incident has devastated the entire family, and is hoping the matter can be resolved very soon. CEO of Detained in Dubai Radha Stirling is representing Ellie and has issued a statement condemning the UAE’s misleading façade as regards its public stance that consumption of alcohol is legal for foreigners.

The statement pointed out that bars in the airport and at hotels giving expats and foreign arrivals the impression alcohol is permitted to foreigners as the emirate is tolerant of Western drinking habits. This, it adds, is far from reality, as it’s totally illegal for visitors to have any alcohol in their bloodstreams or consume it anywhere in the emirate. Dr Holman is expected to have to stay for as long as a year in Dubai until the matter is settled, and her legal costs to date total over £30,000.
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