Georgia has been one of the most popular holiday destinations for UAE residents due to its scenic beauty, proximity and visa-on-arrival facilities. Tbilisi, the dynamic capital city, and other hotspots of the Caucasian country are just a four-hour quick weekend getaway from the Emirates.
The snow-capped mountains, ancient fortresses, Old Town, caves, cathedrals, beaches, good food and resorts make it a worthy vacation spot to relax with family and friends. However, this festive season some of the residents had shocking experiences to share as they got robbed and harassed by gangs of street children.
Abu Dhabi resident GK (name withheld on request) on a short break to Tbilisi is feeling frustrated and helpless after being robbed by a group of children.
“I visited Tbilisi in 2018, and I really liked this place. So, I am back with my family as the Covid-19 situation seems to be behind us. But while we were on the busy Freedom Square, we were approached by a gang of 4-5 children. They hugged me, wishing me Christmas and New Year greetings. But in no time, I realised my wallet was missing. It was a branded wallet with Emirates ID, three credit cards, and 300 euros in cash. I didn’t know how to react, but my son raised the alarm, and a female child from the gang hit back, asking how can we blame a girl for the robbery. The gang was street smart and quick with their task. They stole within seconds and fled,” GK, an entrepreneur, said over the phone from Tbilisi.
“We are in utter disbelief. They are children aged 10 to 15 years, and all of them are poaching for currency notes. I filed a complaint with the police who said those children were gypsies from neighbouring countries. Some have migrated to Georgia during the pandemic. Such instances of robbery seemed to have surged during the pandemic. Some other tourists also shared similar experiences of getting robbed.”
It was a busy street
While another resident had a harrowing time as a little gang of thieves snatched his purse and valuables as he struggled to get away from them in front of a popular shopping mall on Rustaveli Avenue.
“I am here on vacation. I was surrounded in front of a mall by a pack of children in the evening. They snatched my purse and took away things from my bag; most of them were boys and girls, maybe teenagers. There were so many people on the street, mostly Asian tourists. I cried for help, but none seemed to take it seriously as they saw a few children fighting with me. But it was a simple act of robbery. They were after money,” said P.S., a Filipino expat, who didn’t wish to be named. “They were well-prepared and organised like criminals. They were fearless as if some powerful hand was behind them,” he underlined.
A school teacher based in Abu Dhabi who had just returned from Georgia had a similar experience.
“We had a tormenting time. These children should be in school. Most of them seemed to be affected by the pandemic situation and have ended up on the streets. They engage in nefarious activities like begging, pickpocketing and robbing people. They target mostly Asian tourists. They are seeking money; maybe they are homeless and poor. It’s unfortunate. And it’s important to create awareness among residents here about such unexpected occurrences,” the teacher said.
A visiting family from India also lost money to street urchins begging in the marketplace.
“Georgia is a safe country, but we had a shocking experience as a group of children heckled us, asking for money. When we tried to avoid them, they followed us and swiftly stole money from my handbag. These children won’t leave you unless they are given some money. Visitors need to be wary about such problems,” said a tourist in Tbilisi.
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