Nauru has revoked visitor entry for Australian and New Zealand passport holders, allegedly after an Australian journalist entered the country without declaring he or she worked in the media.
The decision to change visa entry requirements appears to have been made at extremely short notice. SBS reported that travellers waiting for a flight in Brisbane early on Friday morning were told at the airport shortly after midnight their passports were no longer valid for travel to the country.
Nauru Airlines confirmed to Guardian Australia citizens of the two countries could no longer enter the republic without a visa, but referred all questions to the Nauru consulate in Brisbane.
The Nauru consulate said it had been told to refer all calls to the Nauru immigration department. The immigration department did not answer questions, but on its Twitter account the country described the move as a change in procedure and denied visas had been “revoked”.
“Previously Aust & NZ citizens have not needed visa to visit as tourist. Now they do,” the Republic of Nauru account said.
It alleged an ABC journalist had entered the country as a tourist and did not declare his or her media status. Journalists have been required to pay an $8,000 non-refundable application fee to visit Nauru on a media visa since January 2013. Only one media representative, the Australian’s Chris Kenny, has been approved to visit.
“Every nation has requirements that those entering must do so honestly. Sadly deceptive behaviour from ABC disadvantages others,” the tweets continued.
“Citizens of Aust & NZ entering honestly for genuine reasons still welcome in Nauru. Those with existing visas should reapply if unsure.”
The tweets were deleted shortly afterwards “for more accurate information”. The account said the government would release a statement later.
A spokeswoman for ABC News told Guardian Australia: “There is no ABC journalist in Nauru on assignment.
“ABC News journalists have applied through official channels for journalist visas to visit Nauru, not for tourist visas,” she said.
Geoff Bowmaker, the chief executive of Nauru Airlines, told Guardian Australia the company “understands the likely inconvenience that the Nauru government’s decision to cancel tourist visas has caused to our passengers”.
“Whilst refunds are not generally available for visa issue the airline will in this situation refund the tickets of affected passengers,” he said.
Nauru said Australian and New Zealand workers in Nauru were not affected by the visa changes.
The Twitter account is increasingly the only official comment to come from the country. In recent weeks it has been used to criticise Australian media, including accusing outlets of fabrication, but has not responded to questions or requests for clarification.
Source : The Guardian