Nauru to increase visa cost for journalists from $200 to $8,000
Bridie Jabour and Daniel Hurst of the Guardian reported yesterday that the new fee, which is not refundable if an application is rejected, will come into force in the next few days.
|An aerial photograph of Nauru. Photograph: Torsten Blackwood/AFP|
Journalists will be charged $8,000 to apply for a visa, even if it is rejected, to visit the island of Nauru where the Australian government is holding hundreds of asylum seekers in detention.
The Global Mail is reporting the new fee, up on the $200 it cost for a visa in 2013, will come into effect in the next few days after the Nauruan parliament voted to approve the increase.
A spokeswoman for the Nauru government said the move was solely for “revenue purposes” and was yet to come into effect.
The website’s photographer, Mike Bowers, applied for a visa to visit the island in November and on Tuesday was reportedly sent an email from the director of Nauru’s government information office, Joanna Olsson.
“Sorry for the late response but yes we are granting media visas. The fee is $8,000 per visa, single entry valid for 3 months. The visa fee is not refundable if the application is not successful,” the email said.
Bowers initially thought the quoted fee was a mistake but it was confirmed to both him and another staff member at the Global Mail to be $8,000.
The opposition leader, Bill Shorten, said he had "no idea" whether the Australian government had any role in pushing for the visa fee increase, but argued the move may be intended to deter journalists from visiting Nauru.
"There's more than one way to bar the scrutiny of the press," he said. "It could be a revenue raising measure or it could be a measure aimed at discouraging Australian journalists from reporting to Australia how Australian taxpayer dollars are being used." Asked whether the Australian government requested the change, the Nauran spokeswoman said: "I haven't been told anything to suggest that."
What's Got Australia to HIDE?
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young criticized the Nauruan government's decision, saying it was designed to make it difficult for the media to access Nauru and to get information back to Australia.
"This is of course part of Tony Abbott's strategy of shutting down public information about how Australian taxpayer money is being spent on the cruel and harsh detention camps on Nauru," she told reporters in Adelaide.
Offshore processing of asylum seekers on Nauru was re-introduced by the Gillard Labor government in 2012.
In July, an accommodation building at a processing center on the island was destroyed when asylum seekers began rioting, which Salvation Army workers put down to the “degrading” conditions they were being held in.
The practice of offshore processing and the conditions asylum seekers are held in have been criticised by the United Nations refugee agency and in December it was announced the Australian government was ending the Salvation Army’s contract to provide humanitarian services on Nauru.
Nauruan government officials have been contacted for comment.