Six Omani tourists on vacation to Georgia have allegedly been deported after arriving at Tbilisi International Airport. They were denied entry in spite of travelling with proper documents.

Georgia, is a country at the intersection of Europe and Asia. It is a former Soviet republic and home to Caucasus Mountain villages and Black Sea beaches.

Georgia is famous for Vardzia, a sprawling cave monastery dating to the 12th century, and the ancient wine-growing region Kakheti. The capital, Tbilisi, is known for the diverse architecture and mazelike, cobblestone streets of its old town.

Saleh al Saifi, one of the six Omanis told Muscat Daily that, “On April 18, when we arrived at the Tbilisi airport, officials took our passports and told us to wait for ten minutes to finish the paperwork. That ten minutes turned into two and a half hours. Finally, a police officer arrived and took us in a room to check our bags. The officer finally told us that we have been denied entry.”

Saifi said that no reason was given for the denial of entry. “We asked for the reason but was given none. We filed a complaint at the airport.”

The six Omanis, all over 40 years old, collected their baggage and left for Muscat on the following day.

Saifi advised those who plan to visit Georgia to think twice. “I would advise people not to travel to the country at the moment. Even with proper documents, entry is not guaranteed. Another problem was that we were also not allowed to contact anyone there, be it officials or the airline for re-booking. It was a difficult time for all of us.”

Muscat Daily  got in touch with the Embassy of Georgia in Saudi Arabia, which looks after Oman, to know why the Omanis were deported in spite of having proper travel documents.

An official in the Embassy of Georgia in Saudi Arabia said, “Omani citizens can travel to Georgia without a visa and stay there for one year. They should have valid passports, return tickets, hotel reservations, bank statement and health insurance.”

The official however said that immigration rules have been tightened in recent times but he had no clear explanation on why some travellers are being sent back.

“Immigration rules have been tightened at the Tbilisi and Batumi airports. Several travellers have been not allowed to enter and sent back by the same plane without any compensation. The final decision is made by airport authorities. Even if passengers have all required documents, there is no guarantee that they will be allowed entry. The embassy does not take any responsibility for this.”

He added that the decision to allow entry to any traveller solely lies in the hands of airport authorities. “It is not only Omanis who have been denied entry but travellers from many other countries including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, India and the US.”