Israel Denied Entry to Turkish Tour Group for Forged Visa

An Israeli airport security guard patrols in Ben Gurion airport. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Israel denied entry to a group of severl dozens Turkish citizens when they arrived at Ben Gurion International Airport on Sunday, saying that their group visa was not valid.

The Immigration Ministry told Israeli media that the visa was forged. The visa in the passport of the group leader did not bear an official Israeli stamp, Hadashot News reported on Monday.

Turkish officials told Hadashot News that the Israeli authorities told them that the group’s entry had been refused “for security reasons.”

The group that arrived in Israel on Sunday was made up of members of an Islamic sect who had wanted to visit Muslim religious sites. The trip was arranged by the Turkey-based Sila Tour company.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement: “According to the Immigration Authority, an Israeli [travel] agent forged the group visa. He was notified in advance that he would need to place a deposit for the group, or they wouldn’t be allowed in. To bypass the Turkish airline’s ban on passengers without legal visas, he falsified the group visa.”

Turkish media has called this “a great humiliation of Turkish tourists in Israel.”

Mustafa Bickioglu, a representative of the Turkey-based Sila Tour company, told the Andalou Turkish news agency that the tour company had received a group visa for the tourists.

“We had received a visa letter in Hebrew for our passengers but the 90 passengers were not allowed to enter Israel for allegedly not having visas,” he said.