Israeli authorities on Sunday prevented 72 Turkish citizens from entering Israel at Ben-Gurion International Airport, claiming that their group visa had been forged, Israel’s Population Registry reported. Turkish media reported that 90 Turkish tourists were barred because the Israeli authorities claimed they did not have an entry visa.
One of the banned tourists, Sumeyra Sevgulu Haciibrahimoglu, 23, a masters student, told the official Turkish news outlet Anadolu that Israeli officials had treated the group “as fugitives.”
“After questioning some of our friends in the security inquiry room, we were taken to different rooms in groups,” she said. “Some of the families among us wanted to be in the same room but Israeli police rejected this request,” she said.
Haciibrahimoglu told the Turkish news agency that her purpose in the visit was to visit al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem: “The only dream of the group that consists of mainly young people was to see Jerusalem,” she said.
Turkish Tour company Sila representative, Mustafa Bickioglu, who spoke to Anadolu, rejected the Israeli fake visa claim, and said the tour company had received a group visa for the tour.
“Israel does not provide separate visas for each passenger to tour companies that bring tourists to Jerusalem,” he said, adding, “The document issued by the consulate works as a visa for all the passengers. We had received a visa letter in Hebrew for our passengers for travel on our Jerusalem tour, but our 90 passengers were not allowed to enter Israel for allegedly not having visas.”
Bickioglu said 15 passengers were sent back to Istanbul and another 33 are expected to be deported as well, depending on seat availability.