How would you feel stepping out of your country for your first solo trip, only to find yourself stranded, cold, hungry and helpless in a strange country? And if upon arrival at your destination, the immigration officials insist (read, shout) that you go back to your country and deport you without giving you a legitimate explanation whatsoever, won’t you be scarred forever, as a traveller?
Well, Khushbu Kaushal, a 32-year-old woman from Mumbai, recently set out to Georgia for a vacation, and nothing panned out even remotely close to what she had planned for herself.
“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,” she wrote in a Facebook post after her return to India. As she goes on to narrate eventually in her post, Kaushal was ill-treated, made to wait for long hours and left hungry and dehydrated by the immigration officials at the Georgia airport — all in spite of her carrying her e-visa and other documents she found necessary for a foreign vacation.
Talking to indianexpress.com, Kaushal said that she had formerly been to Dubai and Thailand and “both were extremely pleasant trips”. Considering how active Sushma Swaraj, the external affairs minister is, on Twitter, she tweeted to the minister, but hasn’t got a reply yet.
During the nine hours she spent in Georgia, which she calls the “scariest and the worst of my travelling life”, Kaushal said she was kept in a room and her pleas for some food and water were not heeded to. She was later asked by an immigration official to leave on the flight they had arranged for her to go back and that she will be handed her passport only after she reached Mumbai.
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.
In the meantime, Kaushal wrote a review on the Embassy of Georgia’s Facebook page and got a response asking her to visit the Embassy in New Delhi to further discuss her issue. “I mentioned that I stay in Mumbai and I would love to meet someone here or alternately can get in touch with someone if contact details are shared,” she said but hasn’t got a response to that yet.
As Kaushal writes about the immigration officials’ general hostile behaviour towards Indians, she said there were two other Indian men who were deported just like her, while she was going through the ordeal.
Indianexpress.com has written to the Embassy of Georgia in India and is waiting for their response.