A Swedish woman who lives in the United Kingdom was reportedly arrested and detained for three days after she drank a complimentary glass of wine aboard an Emirates flight to Dubai.
Ellie Holman, a 44-year-old dentist, arrived with her young daughter at the Dubai airport on July 13, according to The Guardian. The border agent told her upon arrival that her visa had expired, saying that she would need to book a return ticket and not be allowed to enter.
After she got into a heated exchange, Holman alleges that the border agent asked her if she had been drinking. She responded by saying: “Yes, I had a glass of wine on the flight. Given to me free by Emirates Airline staff," The Independent reported Friday.
Holman told British media that she and her daughter, Bibi, were then escorted to a detention center, alleging that they were not given the opportunity to use a proper bathroom.
“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,” she said. “The food [we were given] smelled like rotting garbage and neither Bibi or I could face trying it. I stayed awake for the whole three days."
The woman's British partner, only identified as Gary, flew to the UAE, wondering why he had not heard from Holman. She was then released on bail and Gary was able to take their daughter back to the United Kingdom.
However, Holman claims her passport remains confiscated and she must remain in Dubai until her case goes through the complete legal process.
“My passport remains confiscated until the case is settled, which I have been told will take at least a year," she said. “My practice is closed. All our savings have gone.”
Her lawyers told British media that she has already spent 30,000 British pounds ($38,295) on legal fees, expenses and missed work as a result of her detention.
"It is wholly illegal for any tourist to have any level of alcohol in their blood, even if consumed in flight and provided by Dubai’s own airline," lawyer Radha Stirling told The Guardian. "It is illegal to consume alcohol at a bar, a hotel and a restaurant, and if breathalyzed, that person will be jailed.”
While alcohol is widely bought and sold in Dubai, anyone who wishes to consume alcohol technically must obtain a license. Expats residing in the emirate, who obtain the license, are allowed to purchase a limited amount of alcohol from designated liquor stores. However, bars and restaurants do not generally check or ask if and individual has the document.
Dubai Media Office releases statement on the matter
On Saturday, Dubai Media Office released a statement on the matter explaining that "the woman and her child remained together in the airport security office for less than 24 hours while services were provided to them, taking into full account and consideration of her 4-year-old daughter," the statement read.
"The prosecution decided to drop the charges against Ellie Hollman and to deport her instead."
Editor's Note: The article was updated to include Dubai Media Office's statement on the matter.