A 44 year old woman and mother of three arrived in Dubai off an Emirates flight on July 13. She learned her single entry visa, already used, was not valid for re-entry into the UAE.
It’s not clear why the woman wasn’t eligible for a new visa on arrival, however even if she was apparently the exchange became testy. She was with her four year old. She was asked whether she had been drinking (she was tested and came up 0.04. She acknowledged drinking a glass of wine on her Emirates flight.
Emirates Business Class Bar
The mother and her 4 year old daughter were placed in custody. The girl’s father flew to Dubai and brought the daughter home to the U.K. The woman has been released on bail but her passport is being held and she cannot leave the country pending resolution of the case.
Here are things to know about this situation:
- Tourists who are 21 years old or more can drink in licensed venues in the UAE as well as onboard flights. Emirates touts their wine program investment. It is not illegal to drink the wine served onboard.
- Public intoxication though is illegal.
- This woman arrived with the wrong visa type. Things apparently got testy with the immigration officer. She reportedly took out her camera to film the interaction with immigration which is illegal.
A 0.004 is hardly intoxicated, it’s legal to drive in the U.S. and the legal limit in Australia. However authorities in Dubai seem to have decided that her behavior indicated intoxication, and she acknowledged drinking. If you tell a police officer you’ve been drinking ‘but had only one drink’ you’re offering an admission and law enforcement will assume you are lying (downplaying the amount you consumed).
Emirates Onboard Bar Choices
What’s problematic being charged with something that’s basically not a crime unless the government decides to enforce it. Several Mideast countries can be criticized heavily for this, but it’s hardly unique to the Gulf region. Americans violate laws all the time, usually without consequence, however once you’re the target of an investigation everyday lawbreaking becomes an issue.
Nonetheless this is certainly not a story of “woman drinks wine gets arrested” the way it is playing in the media. Instead it appears to be “woman gets into altercation at immigration, gets arrested, and the government piles on charges.” This seems unfortunate, and disproportionate, though at the same time I’m equally fearful crossing most any country’s borders.