Forty-four-year-old British dentist Ellie Holman, the mother of a 4-year-old daughter, was tossed straight into jail in Dubai after the airline she was flying on provided her with one glass of wine on her Emirates flight which departed from London.
According to Metro, Holman stated that her small daughter was also forced to spend the night sleeping next to a toilet in her own jail cell.
“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 trouble began immediately after Ellie landed in Dubai after their eight-hour flight, after which she was told that the visa she was allowed onto the airplane with was not valid for entering the country and that it was meant for only one visit.
When the mother explained that she had used this same visa on other visits to Dubai and had never had any issues with it before, she was told by a “dismissive and rude” employee that she and her daughter must return to the UK that same day and that she was categorically not able to renew it there at the airport.
However, things quickly got much worse after she was asked if she had consumed any alcohol. Ellie Holman explained that she had drunk just one glass of red wine on the flight over, which she had been given with her meal, and the immigration officer told her it wasn’t just possession of alcohol that was considered a crime in Dubai – simply having consumed it, if even on a flight over, was also a crime.
The mother was swiftly arrested, and she and her 4-year-old daughter were marched to a “foul smelling” detention center and then both jailed.
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It should be noted that the British mother and her entire family had visited Dubai many times in the past and had never had any trouble before, which is perhaps why when her husband hadn’t heard from her he quickly became worried.
As officials had taken Holman’s passport and phone away from her, there was no way she could contact her husband and the rest of her family. However, friends who live in Dubai eventually contacted the husband to let him know that his wife and daughter had been jailed.
After the two were finally allowed bail, Ellie Holman’s husband was able to leave for the UK with their 4-year-old daughter. Meanwhile, Ellie is forced to stay behind in Dubai and may be stuck there for at least one year as she fights her legal battle, which she explains has already cost £30,000.
“My passport remains confiscated until the case is settled, which I have been told will take at least a year. So far this situation has cost me around £30,000 in legal fees, expenses and missed work. My practice is closed. All our savings have gone.”
Radha Stirling, who is representing the mother, explained that despite the prevalence of alcohol in hotels, restaurants, and bars, it is strictly illegal for tourists to have any alcohol whatsoever in their blood and that this often causes confusion for many.
“The UAE maintains a deliberately misleading façade that alcohol consumption is perfectly legal for visitors. 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 breathalyzed, that person will be jailed.”
So while alcohol is strictly verboten for tourists in Dubai, it also appears that drinking a single glass of wine on a flight over even before you arrive can also get you quickly jailed, as British mother Ellie Holman has recently been forced to learn.