Ellie Holman is a 44-year-old dentist from Sevenoaks, Kent, in England. She and her 4-year-old daughter, Bibi, were locked up in jail after deplaning from an Emirates flight they had taken from London to Dubai.
Holman drank one complimentary glass of wine while onboard an 8-hour Emirates flight. Upon arrival in Dubai, an immigration official asked for her visa who then informed her that it was not valid and she would need to return to England.
Ellie asked the official if she could buy a new one. Feeling the official was being rude, Ellie filmed him on her phone as evidence of his behavior before learning this was an offense and also that it was illegal to drink alcohol in Dubai or be in an intoxicated state.
Next, the immigration official asked her if she had consumed alcohol, and she replied that she had a glass of wine on the flight. It was at this point that the official then confiscated her passport.
According to Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained In Dubai, the British human rights NGO that is representing Holman, Ellie and Bibi were on their way to Dubai for a 5-day holiday to visit friends – something they have done many times before.
However, this time, she and her young daughter were taken into custody and her phone and passport was confiscated. It was then that Ellie was asked to take a blood test to determine her level of alcohol consumption which proved to be 0.04 percent – way under the UK drink-drive limit.
Asking if she could phone her partner Gary, she was refused that request and put into a cell with Bibi who was terrified by now. According to the NGO, Detained in Dubai, Holman claimed the guards had tried to rip out her hair extensions. She described the jail as hot and “foul-smelling” and said she and Bibi had to sleep on a filthy mattress, and her daughter had to go to the toilet on the jail cell floor. She also said the food they were given during the 3 days they spent in prison smelled like rotting garbage which neither of them could eat.
Radha Stirling, the chief executive of Detained in Dubai, said: “The UAE maintains a deliberately misleading facade that alcohol consumption is perfectly legal for visitors. Tourists cannot be blamed for believing that the Emirates are tolerant of western drinking habits, but this is far from reality.
“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. It is illegal to consume alcohol at a bar, a hotel, and a restaurant, and if breathalyzed, that person will be jailed.”
Holman’s partner, Gary, flew to Dubai after not having heard back from Ellie when he continually tried to contact her. Bibi has since returned to the UK with her father and other 2 siblings, while Ellie has to remain in Dubai and is staying with a friend.
Ellie may have to stay in Dubai for up to a year as she waits for a court hearing. After being released on bail, she has lost more than £30,000 in legal fees. Her dental practice has had to close, and her savings has been depleted. Ellie’s passport remains confiscated until the case is concluded.