Georgia’s Interior Ministry has responded to an accusation that border officials at Tbilisi International Airport subjected an Indian citizen to ‘humiliating’ treatment, after her open letter to Georgia’s Ambassador to India went viral on Facebook. Khushbu Kaushal, who flew to Tbilisi from India on 29 June, claims that she was falsely denied entry to Georgia.
Georgia’s Interior Ministry released a short statement on 4 July responding to the accusations, claiming that ‘border guards have the right to refuse a foreign citizen entry into Georgia when they do not provide convincing answers during interviews or give false information about their purpose of travel’.
However, Kaushal had said that she was carrying an approved electronic visa, a letter from her employer stating she was on holiday and would be coming back to work after returning, a bank statement to prove her financial stability, as well as hotel bookings and health and travel insurance.
Thirty minutes after being asked to move to an ‘unmarked counter’ and wait for the border guards to examine her documents, Kaushal says she was interviewed about the purpose of her visit, and had to wait for another two hours until being told that she was being sent home.
‘When I requested for a reason I was shouted at and told to sit in a corner’, Kaushal wrote.
She called the episode ‘the beginning of the most humiliating night’ of her life. ‘Some six hours into this ordeal I was not even offered water to drink, even after constantly begging for the same to the officers’, she added.
Kaushal said that the reason given to her by Indian immigration officers upon her return was that she had provided ‘false information’ about her purpose of travel. ‘I would like to understand on what basis did the gentleman who interviewed me came to that decision? All my papers were legit and as per what was guided by your visa portal so where did I go wrong?’, Kaushal asks.
Kaushal says that immigration officials at both her transit airport in the UAE and in India told her that Georgia has been denying entry to 90% of Indian travellers with electronic visas, ‘Be it families, couples or solo travellers like me’.
The statement from Georgia’s Interior Ministry said with an increasing number of tourists and other visitors coming to Georgia, ‘naturally there are separate cases when foreign citizens are refused entry in accordance with international standards and procedures envisioned by georgian law’.
Procedures for foreign citizens entering Georgia have become stricter after a Georgia–EU visa waiver programme came into force, the statement read. Citizens of Georgia with biometric passports have been able to travel to countries in Europe’s Schengen Area without visas since 28 March.
According to Georgia’s Interior Ministry, around 6,500 Indian citizens entered Georgia in June 2017. In the first quarter of 2017, 240 Indian citizens were denied entry, the most of any country, followed by 203 from Azerbaijan, 146 from Turkey, and 108 from Syria, according to the ministry.