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Seeking Asylum
<p>TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images</p>

TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images

An $8,000 Gag Visa

The new price for a shot at reporting on Nauru.


The Nauruan parliament has endorsed a 3,900 per cent increase in the visa application fee for journalists – making it prohibitively expensive for the media to report from the Pacific island republic where Australia now detains hundreds of asylum seekers who arrive by boat.

Under the new fee structure, which is expected to come into force this week, it will cost media professionals $8,000 to apply for a single-entry visa valid for up to three months. The money would not be refunded even if the application were rejected.

Presently, journalists can apply for a subclass of business visa for media workers. The Nauru government website says the fee is $200.

Nauru’s Principal Immigration Officer Ernest Stephen told The Global Mail that $200 is the application fee for a single-entry visa for up to three months and that journalists could pay $400 to apply for a one-year multiple-entry visa.

Mr Stephen said the new $8,000 fee had been approved by the Nauruan parliament but would not be implemented until it had been gazetted, which he expected to happen “in the next couple of days”.

Single-entry three-month tourist visas cost $100.

“The fee is $8,000 per visa, single-entry valid for up to three months… not refundable if the application is rejected.”

Having initiated contact with the Nauruan government two months ago, The Global Mail’s Mike Bowers received the following email on January 7, from Nauru’s Government Information Office Director 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.”

Olsson was unaware that the new visa fee had yet to take effect. In her January 7 email and in a subsequent telephone conversation she said the new fee had been implemented “a couple [of] months ago”.

Both Olsson and Stephen declined to comment on questions about whether the Australian and Nauruan governments had discussed increasing the media visa application fee to $8,000. Asked about the rationale behind the fee hike, Olsson said, “It would be for revenue purposes. What else would it be for?”

According to Mr Stephen, Nauru’s top visa officer, only “three or four” media visas were granted in 2013. He added that most applications were granted and that two of them were for a US media outlet reporting on diabetes in Nauru. There was a notable increase in the issuing of media visas for a couple of months after Australia’s Labor government reintroduced offshore processing for asylum seekers in September 2012.

The UNHCR undertook an assessment of the Nauru Regional Processing Centre in October 2013 and concluded in a scathing report that the facility did not provide safe or humane conditions for asylum seekers.

The Abbott government was elected in September last year after a high-profile campaign to “stop the boats” and promising a “military-led” response.

In the most recent media briefing from “Operation Sovereign Borders”, in late December, General Angus Campbell confirmed that 804 asylum seekers, including families and children, were being detained on Nauru.

The UNHCR undertook an assessment of the Nauru Regional Processing Centre in October 2013 and concluded in a scathing report that the facility did not provide safe or humane conditions for asylum seekers. Immigration spokeswoman for The Greens, Sarah Hanson-Young, visited Nauru in December and described the conditions for children detained there as “heart-wrenching”.

The Global Mail put the following question to the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Scott Morrison:

“Has the Australian government communicated with the Nauruan government about the application fee for journalist visas in that country? (If so, what was the nature of that communication and when did it take place?)”

In an emailed response, a spokesperson for the minister wrote: “This is a matter for the Government of Nauru.”

31 comments on this story
by Marilyn

Why complain, none of you lazy scabs have even gone to bloody Villawood down the road.

January 8, 2014 @ 6:07pm
by John Fraser

<

The Abbott government exporting Morrison's censorship that is so successful in Australia.

"Murdoch and Abbott lied to Australians".

January 8, 2014 @ 7:09pm
by Sam

Pretty grubby move. What is to stop journalists going to Nauru on holiday then free lancing while there?

January 8, 2014 @ 7:47pm
by Robyne

Think it's time to instigate "Boycott Nauru Tourism" if that's the price of a visa. Oh that's right no one wants to go there anyway! Am ashamed of this government run by a "spokesperson" and yes I am the daughter of a refugee in 1946 who was treated appalling by Australians when she arrived. I guess we are just going back to ww2

January 8, 2014 @ 9:11pm
by David H

Sam, nobody would wilingly go to Nauru on holidays

January 8, 2014 @ 9:33pm
by Glenn

go as a tourist

January 8, 2014 @ 11:29pm
by Kerrianne Springford

ahhh, that's pocket change to Murdoch...I'm sure he'll be sending a fleet of journos...pfffft

January 8, 2014 @ 11:37pm
by John O'Hanlon

I didn't think that I would be saying this but ... bring on another election ... but who the hell do you put in

January 9, 2014 @ 12:39am
by Link

Good on the Nauru gov, they should be able to make money out of Gillards failed illegal entry policies, the grubby Global Mail is, so when you start drawing a long bow, anyone can be in sight.
But never mind, the honourable Mr Scott Morrison is on the case and pretty soon the flow of these wannabe dole bludgers will be stopped, so the shreiking Sarah Hansen Young will have to find a new portfolio, in the mean time, Nauru rocks!

January 9, 2014 @ 7:06am
by bilbo 3

It is simply a matter of supply and demand. Who could blame a cash strapped country for maximising their fees for service. No doubt there will be those who choose to pay the fee as the trials of those accused of rioting and destruction of the detention camp will come up soon. No doubt that those accused of the A$60 million tantrum will be acting out well rehersed tales of victimhood to manipulate the assembled media.

January 9, 2014 @ 10:01am
by Monte

Wow.
So these weasels not only hide behind cross-eyed uniforms and "operational secrecy", but convince the Nauruan government that keeping bad press at bay would be mutually beneficial.

Oh well. The UN and Australian MPs will be exempt at least.

January 9, 2014 @ 10:32am
by Tommie

These people come here looking for our help. We lock them away.

Our elected representatives are endeavouring to hide the facts.

Have some compassion. Put yourself in their shoes... Where would you go if the entire east coast of Australia suddenly flooded due to raising sea levels from climate change?

Which country would you seek asylum in?

January 9, 2014 @ 11:47am
by Pirietm

There's nothing "Honourable" about Scott Morrison. As a so called Christian, God will deal with him for his cruel and inhumane actions, but it would be good if He could do that sooner rather than later.

January 9, 2014 @ 11:51am
by The Realist

Poor Tommie, what a maroon. Is there no higher ground in Australia than the coastal plain? Haven't you any idea how stupid your hypothetical shows you to be? Explain why the last polar vortex that hit the US was touted by "scientists" as proof of the coming ice age, as reported then by the New York Times, yet this one is proof of Global Warming?

January 9, 2014 @ 12:20pm
by illillawa

"by The Realist
Poor Tommie, what a maroon"...........er, What's a maroon?..Just wondering!

January 9, 2014 @ 1:55pm
by Doug

Revenue raising by such a price rise is a big risk. Nauru could easily lose income if it deters journalists from visiting the Island. It's a nonsense. The Nauru Government is broke and is dependent on the flow of Australian government funds through outsourcing detention camps for asylum seekers.

January 9, 2014 @ 5:02pm
by Getsomemanners

The Realist.
If you are so intelligent, try constructing response without lowering your standard to abusing people and calling them morons. Everyone is entitled to their point of view, its ignorant people who belittle them by calling them names.

January 9, 2014 @ 10:54pm
by Elaine Henderson

Very clever of the Nauru government to make a profit out of Austalian journalists who travel to Nauru to report on all the negative aspects of the Regional Detention Centre. Amazing how the reporting of asylum seekers has changed with the change of government perhaps journalists should show less of their bias and hyporcisy. They should be wishing
that the criminal people smuggling trade be stopped thus saving the lives of many people who will no longer be at risk taking dangerous sea voyages.

January 9, 2014 @ 11:36pm
by John T

Great no Green Left Weekly wankers (Journalists) can afford to go and complain about Nauru sinking.

January 10, 2014 @ 5:59pm
by Terence Mills

I doubt that the Nauruan government expect to sell any of these media visas and I suspect that it is a designed to discourage media attention on what is happening on Nauru AND it smacks of Morrison leaning on the Nauruan government.

January 11, 2014 @ 9:14am
by Richard

Good to see the trolls have still a heartbeat, but no real Brian signal - John T. Yeah this is for you.
The majority of Australia bitches and moans out of justified concern about North Korea, about questionable Russian imprisonment and of other humanitarian injustices in China. The policy makers in Australia trade off the freedom/ democracy brand whilst shifting the bar to ensure the costs of any checking mechanism are increasingly higher, enabling a kind of intellectual dishonesty to be prosecuted. This country is becoming no better, and inevitably worse than the attitudes expressed in the Russian state, or in other weird-shop places because we claim to be one thing - and are in fact another. Nauru government is of course being dragged into the muck by Australia's federal government influence..as without the dreadful detention centre for those illegal criminals (women men and children looking for hope/ home) the visa issue would not have arisen. And moral pigmy John T - enjoy your neo fascism along with the likes of dickhead Morrison and that lubricant starved vampish old queen Abetz. I've got the loot to go as have many and we will go, and we will rip it open. You are an offensive little stunt - but we enjoy your right to say what you will. It creates mirth.

January 11, 2014 @ 10:40am
by Richard

Ok. So I got personal. Sorry. I understand you can and will delete !! No probs

January 11, 2014 @ 10:40am
by Chris

by illillawa.

"Whats a MAROON? Its a Bronco's supporter of course."

Seriously folks, has anyone looked at the massive increases in visa lodgement fees for people wanting to migrate to Australia? Two increases in a few months in late 2013. If an applicant has a partner, double the fee, if they have children, additional fees for each child. If a person is in Australia and moving from some visas to other certain visas, an additional $800! Why? Greed! The extra work for an Immigration case officer in say a family of four over a single applicant, maybe 1 hour or less. In saying this please note that these increases were brought in by Labor in its desperate efforts to make the books look better before the last election. Will the present lot repeal them? Fat chance!

January 11, 2014 @ 11:04am
by Jenny L.

Oh, it just keeps on getting worse. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Yeah right!!! Hope the Global Mail can afford the $8,000 and if they can't - start a fund - I'd donate.

January 11, 2014 @ 3:34pm
by jossi tinga

Now Nauru journalists reporting for international media can ratchet up the fees.

January 12, 2014 @ 1:16am
by ucarewhatithink

The really scary thing about this story is, not even the Nauruan Government knows what the Nauruan Government is up to.

January 13, 2014 @ 9:04am
by Alpal11

And now the poor asylum seekers are following Scott Morrison's example - sewing their lips!

January 14, 2014 @ 2:11pm
by S McCann

Surprise! Surprise! In keeping with this disgusting government policy of secrecy about everything to do with asylum seekers, could it be possible that our government, seeking to improve the lot of the Nauruan Government's financial position, advised them that one way, would be to increase the fee for visitors, or is it only for Journalists? Could we really stoop that low? Surely not? Perhaps an innocent question in parliament as to the cost or transporting water to Nauru might tell us something of the level of censorship imposed by our government about the cost of the asylum seeker policy

January 19, 2014 @ 12:03pm
Show previous 28 comments
by Lee

The death of democracy when a free press cannot get access to information on our behalf. How utterly depressing this "government" is. And Nauru can only suffer for this kind of servitude.

January 19, 2014 @ 4:00pm
by Stuart

And now Nauru has sacked it's judiciary. History can tell us where this is heading.

January 20, 2014 @ 11:35am
by HildaElizabeth

Stop the boats means stop the press apparently. It seems also to mean stopping or reducing all services to people in migrant detention.

I fail to see how this is Australian, and why we need to be so nasty.

January 20, 2014 @ 7:09pm
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