Breaching airport security is unacceptable everywhere

The warped tale of a mother held in custody for apparently drinking is only half the story

United Arab Emirates - Dubai - August 2, 2010.

BUSINESS: Passengers check their flight schedules at Dubai International Airport Terminal 2 in Dubai on Monday, August 2, 2010. Amy Leang/The National
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It's a drearily familiar story, of which sensationalist media outlets never seem to tire. Thanks to a combination of ignorance and arrogance, a visitor to the UAE falls foul of the law.

Step forward a self-promoting “legal group”, which often serves an ulterior agenda. Soon the story – or, rather, an unrecognisably distorted version of it – is doing the rounds on social media, ostensibly about a Swedish woman detained at Dubai airport, supposedly for nothing more than drinking a glass of wine on a flight.

It is nonsense, of course. There was, as Dubai’s Attorney General Issa Al Humaidan repeatedly sought to make clear, rather more to the story than was being reported.

Ellie Holman, married to a Briton and living in the UK, is from Sweden and upon arrival in Dubai, presented an expired Swedish passport.

She then produced an Iranian passport without a valid visa and was offered a 96-hour visa on arrival, which would mean shortening her stay. At this point Mrs Holman lost control and began swearing at officials and attempting to film them.

Unsurprisingly, she was detained, along with her young daughter, for exhibiting the kind of behaviour that would be an arrestable offence at any security-conscious airport, anywhere in the world.

Yet her advocates insisted her case was “symptomatic of confused UAE laws”. The only confusion, however, is in the minds of those pursuing an anti-UAE agenda.

Visa regulations are clear and behaviour such as that demonstrated by Ms Holman would not be tolerated anywhere in the world.

There are, of course, nefarious elements at play who work tirelessly to blacken the UAE's reputation. The fact that such propaganda is swallowed wholesale betrays the inability to respect laws that are at the heart of ensuring safe travel and entry to any country.