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Saturday, 8 July 2017

'Inadmissible', sent back to India: How a solo female's backpacking trip to Georgia went horribly wrong

It was a backpacking trip that went distressingly wrong for Khushbu Kaushal. The 32-year-old, a resident of Mumbai had planned a backpacking trip to Georgia, only to be considered “inadmissible” by the former Soviet republic and sent back to India without much by way of explanation.

Kaushal wrote about the nine hours she spent in Georgia as being the “scariest and the worst of my travelling life” in a Facebook post which has gone viral.

Speaking to Outlook about her ordeal, Kaushal says that the first inkling she had that something was amiss was at the Mumbai airport, where an immigration officer asked her ‘Why Georgia?’

She says a lot of friends had suggested Georgia as a good backpacking destination and a ‘gorgeous’ place which is friendly to females going solo. She did not expect anything to go wrong as she had all her documents in order, and they were cleared in India. “I had booked my hotel and a return ticket. I even had my bank documents, cash, credit and debit cards on me,” she says, mentioning that she even had a letter from her employer confirming her visit.

Kaushal reached Tbilisi, the Georgian capital via Sharjah, and was asked to step away from the passport-check counter at immigration and asked to move to an unmarked one. “A lot of Indians were there,” she says, adding that a number of Indian families from U.A.E. were there too. But while they were let go, she and another traveller from Delhi with an e-visa were sent back to Sharjah, nine hours later.

Khushbu Kaushal added 2 new photos.
3 July at 10:54 ·


EDIT: I had put up this post to ensure what happened to me doesn't happen to any other traveller. I am barring anyone to comment any further on my post and I am removing all the nasty comments because if we can't maintain dignity for other human being regardless of their looks, cast, creed, race or gender then what is point of all this! Shame on you people!

Dear Mr. Archil Dzuliashvili (Georgian Ambassador to India) ,

I am a citizen of India, a single woman who earns her honest living working for an advertising agency. This year for my annual break I decided to visit your country Georgia. It rated pretty high for solo woman travellers and the general topography and the history of the country was attractive enough to seal my decision.

My flight for Georgia took off from Mumbai on 29th June at 5am IST and I reached Tbilisi by 5pm Georgia time. I was carrying approved e-visa, letter from my employer stating I was on a holiday and will be joining back after my vacation, my bank statement to prove my financial stability, my hotel bookings to prove my stay in the country is legit and health and travel insurance in case anything happens to me while I am in your country.

One of the sane mind would think that my preparations should amount to easy passage to your country however to my surprise on the passport check in the immigration I was asked to move to an unmarked counter for the officers to take a look at my papers. After half an hour of wait, one of the officers took my interview asking me my purpose of the visit, he had a look at all my papers and cracked a joke as well. Since all of it was pleasant so far I was expecting quick approvals and started doing a mental calculation of how long it will take me to get to the hostel and explore a bit before I retire for the night.

But this was not to be, your officers asked me to wait which turned out to be a two hours wait in the cold steel uncomfortable chairs of immigration. After three hours of my arrival to Tbilisi I was not yet given any information or attended to, so I went to ask for my status and was then told that I am being sent back. When I requested for a reason I was shouted at and told to sit in a corner.
This was the beginning of the most humiliating night of my life. Every time, after being told I was being sent back, when I tried approaching one of your immigration officers to get any answer, I was shouted at, told rudely to sit in a corner and that I will not be given any reason of inadmissibility to your country. I didn't know what was my fault, where did I go wrong, how long will I be held up in the immigration and when will I be sent home. And worse of all I was alone and realised I was fed nonsense information about your country having friendly citizens and it being considered top rated for solo woman travellers.

To top this, some six hours into this ordeal I was not even offered water to drink, even after constantly begging for the same to your officers. Not a request sir, it was literal begging. I was dehydrated, hungry, with a terrible headache and body ache all thanks to no water, food or rest on account of travelling for about more than 12 hours.

Finally at 12am, seven hours after arrival to your country, I was allowed to buy food and water and asked to sit in a room so that other passengers shouldn't get a look at how people are really treated by your immigration. Two and a half hours later one of your immigration officer came to the room that I was held up in and started shouting that I should go now as the flight they were sending me back on was ready. I was rushed to the flight and when I asked for my passport it was said that I will not be handed it to me till I reach Mumbai. The nine hours I spent in your country were the scariest and the worst of my travelling life.

On coming back home I tried to piece together what happened and why was I sent back. The reason given to me by Indian immigration was that I had provided false information about my being and the reason to 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?

My friends who checked with Indian MEA found a contradictory issue that was reported to them but not filed, it was that my passport was damaged and potentially duplicated. I challenge you to take a look at my passport and tell me that if my passport is good enough for other countries that I have travelled to then what was the problem in yours.

Further investigation brought out a darker problem. I was informed by Sharjah transit officers and Indian immigration officers that your immigration officers have been sending almost 90% of Indian travellers with evisa back everyday at random. Be it families, couples or solo travellers like me.
I wanted to check what might be the reason of sudden hatred towards Indians, considering in 2015 the tourism from Indian sector to Georgia had increased to 80% amounting to considerable income being generated for your country through people of my country.

Guess what I found out? Georgian government had invited Indian farmers to come and cultivate the lands which Georgian people were not able to work at. This sudden influx of Indians, as invited by your Government, has increased discontent and hatred towards Indians in general which I guess has resulted in your immigration officers being racists and playing God with regular Indians travel plans.
In the end I just want to say that your country has been a colossal disappointment. All my excitement of exploring your land was misplaced and I should have rather invested my time and money to go somewhere which is genuinely friendly and cares about tourism.

Also, I would like to request you to manage your citizens expectations well so that they do not turn racists towards other countries without knowing where the issue stands. And the least you can do for other people being deported the way I was, is to treat them like humans. Give them a reason, give them food and water and give them a place to rest. No one deserves the sub par treatment that was meted to me. We are living in the time where people and countries need to work together and respect each other. This disregard for fellow humans will only result in discontentment and anger. This world deserve less of both.

I hope the best to you and that you enjoy your stay in my country.

Regards,
Khushbu Kaushal

“Your officers asked me to wait which turned out to be a two hour wait in the cold steel uncomfortable chairs of immigration. After three hours of my arrival to Tbilisi I was not yet given any information or attended to, so I went to ask for my status and was then told that I am being sent back. When I requested for a reason I was shouted at and told to sit in a corner,” she writes in her post.

“Every time, after being told I was being sent back, when I tried approaching one of your immigration officers to get any answer, I was shouted at, told rudely to sit in a corner and that I will not be given any reason of inadmissibility to your country. I didn't know what was my fault, where did I go wrong, how long will I be held up in the immigration and when will I be sent home,” she further elaborates.

Kaushal says that she wasn’t even given food or water in a place “devoid of any basic human necessities”. Finally, “I was literally begging”, she says, saying that one of the officers took pity and allowed only one of them to go and get something for the both of them.

At about 2:45 a.m. (local Georgia time) she was asked to ‘Leave, right now!’ by an immigration officer and was put back on a flight to Sharjah without her passport in her possession.
The “harrowing experience” was not yet over for Kaushal who ended up spending about another 17 hours in Sharjah, while the authorities figured out ‘what do with her’.

For a trip that she thought would cost her close to Rs 1 lakh for 15 days, she was now paying 100 dirhams (close to 1,700 rupees) every three hours, just to stay at the airport lounge in Sharjah.
Kaushal and her friends had been tweeting to MEA Sushma Swaraj, and unusually, there was no response.

She says that authorities in Sharjah asked their Indian counterparts in Mumbai if she should be sent back to India. They finally asked her if she would like to go back to Tbilisi, which was met with a resounding ‘No’ from her end, after which she was on a flight back to India

When Outlook got in touch with the Georgian embassy in India, a spokesperson confirmed that they had “got a lot of emails” in connection with the case and they arelooking into the matter. When asked if there had been more other cases of resident Indians with e-visas not being permitted to enter Georgia, we were asked to send an email with queries. (The story will be updated when the Embassy has a more elaborate response)

Kaushal confirmed that the embassy has got in touch with her and are looking into the case.

(Source: Outlook India)

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