To: H.E Mr. Waguih Hanafi (Ambassador in the Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt in Norway)
I have had the pleasure of visiting Egypt last 27 March - 3 April 2009 as a tourist with my Norwegian husband. We were on a chartered tour to Egypt through Apollo travel agency.
I have a Filipino citizenship, living and working in Norway (with valid work/residence permit). Owing to my Filipino citizenship and according to rules and regulations, I applied for and was granted a tourist visa for Egypt by the Egyptian embassy in Oslo.
However, when we arrived in Hurghada (our port of entry), the immigration official at the immigration counter hesitated to grant me entry to the country and had me sent to another officer who in turn detained me for at least an hour. This certain officer only directed his questions to our travel representative (who was there to assist us upon arrival) about the purpose of my visit, how long I'm staying, what am I doing in Norway, what kind of work do I do, etc. I asked the officer (through our travel rep) if anything's wrong and is there a particular reason for detaining me. I insisted I have a valid visa from the Egypt embassy/consulate in Oslo. (Take note that the officer didn't even know where Oslo is. I said it's the capital of Norway). At one point, I was threatened that I would be sent back to my country (again, I don't know for what reason).
Throughout the questioning or detaining period, I was never spoken to by the officer nor I was able to voice out my opinions or questions. And I never really got any answers from the immigration officers who dealt with our situation on our arrival. All I got from our travel agent is that "Asians need an extra high security clearance before entering the country and I should have gotten a high security pass of some sort".
I have been to more than 20 countries both for work and pleasure but I never heard of such thing and I have checked relevant websites about travel to Egypt beforehand but there's no mention about extra security pass for certain country citizens to enter Egypt. Besides, your embassy in Oslo should have informed me about this or refused to grant me a visa under this circumstance.
In this regard, I have three questions which I hope you will grant me answers to:
1. Is it true and correct that we (Asians in general or Filipinos in particular) need a special clearance to enter Egypt and has there had been many cases that visitors were refused entry to the country even with valid visa/permit? Having this information will make me and others better prepared if faced such situation, when we travel to Egypt.
2. If there is such a rule, why did the embassy fail to inform me about this when issuing my visa? For me and my husband, the episode was perceived to be both dangerous and threatening. Our major fear was that I would be sent to a detainment facility, which could be dangerous to both me and the child that I am bearing. Had we known about this, we would not have taken the risk of traveling to Egypt.
3. If there is no such rule and the visa issued by the embassy was valid for me to travel to Egypt, will you take any actions in regards to finding out why this happened? And will people who are granted visa to Egypt by you, be warned that even with a valid visa one may be stopped and experience deportation at the border and/or dangerous situations with the border officials?
I would also like to point out that this sort of "incomprehensible action (of initially refusing entry without any reasons) which borders on harassment" should not be tolerated. I had a valid visa and I have rights to speak and be heard of.
Thank you for your kind attention on this matter and hoping to hear from you at your earliest convenience.
Maria Majella Rio