Three Israeli men have been turned out of Mauritius on suspicion they were there on a secret mission to spy on tourists from Dubai, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Monday.
The three arrived on the island, an exotic tourist destination in the Indian Ocean, in order to conclude their trip to the Soccer World Cup.
But they never made it to the turquoise beaches. As soon as they landed immigration officers, who were convinced they were Mossad agents who had come to the island to disturb the peace, placed them under arrest and submitted them to hours of intensive interrogations.
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The three 30-year old men all reside in Tel Aviv. Ido and Roee Reicher, a pair of twins, are computer engineers and their friend, Avi Levinstein, owns a sushi restaurant. They had been planning their trip for six months.
"We heard it was paradise. It's cold in South Africa, and we were told it's hot in Mauritius, so we decided to spoil ourselves and come back with a tan," Roee said.
He said they had arrived Saturday on a British Airways flight, and were held up at passport control. "They looked at our passports, flipped through them, and then began to speak in French, saying, 'Israelis, Israelis'," Roee said.
Unfortunately, a flight from Dubai had landed on the island just moments before theirs had arrived. The immigration officers, fearing a case similar to that of the Mabhouh assassination, prevented them from passing.
They were taken to another room where, they say, the officers began to yell at them. "They claimed our passports were fake and didn't believe a word we said," Roee recounted.
"They didn't understand why we hadn't booked a hotel for the first night, and asked if we had any money. We showed them credit cards, but they just kept saying, 'Israeli, Israeli' as if we had done something wrong."
Roee, Ido, and Avi were then placed in three separate rooms and interrogated further. "They asked us where we had traveled in the past, and refused to believe that young Israeli men could have visited so many places," Roee said, adding that he had been to 40 different countries.
"Avi forgot to mention he had been to Zurich, and they took that as proof that we weren't who we said we were. They kept yelling, 'Where were you? What did you do? Who are you?'"
'Go talk to president of Mauritius'
Exhausted, the three called the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, but were told they would only receive assistance on Monday because Israel does not have an embassy in Mauritius. "They recommended we leave the country," Roee said. "I was really angry at this reply. We paid a lot of money to go there."
After hanging up, Roee and his friends insisted upon staying on the island. "They replied that we would be detained for six months because we tried to enter with fake passports," he said.
The immigration officers also refused to call the Foreign Ministry in order to ascertain the identity of the young men. "I told the one in charge I wanted to speak to someone above him. He said, 'Go talk to the president of Mauritius'," Roee said.
Furious, the three were placed on a flight back to South Africa. They had spared no expense to enjoy their vacation, and paid for first-class seats on the way to the island, Roee said, but ended up spending just a few infuriating hours in the airport.
Mauritius is a small island, with a population of around 1.2 million people, which thrives on agriculture and tourism. Historically it is connected to Israel, as the British used it as an interim camp for Holocaust survivors attempting to reach the shores of Palestine.
Recently tension developed between the two countries when Mauritius refused to approve the nomination of a non-resident ambassador because his office would be the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, which they claim the UN does not recognize as Israel's capital.
In response, the ministry cut back on aid to the island, which included sending over specialists, accepting foreign students and interns into courses in Israel, and backing the island's nominees for UN positions.
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