You won’t read too many “tropical island paradise” travel stories from Nauru from now on after the cash-strapped government of the world’s second-smallest country upped the visa fee for journalists from $200 to $8000.
The Australian news website The Global Mail discovered the hike of nearly 4000% when photographer Mike Bowers applied to visit. He received an email from Nauru’s Government Information Office Director yesterday stating: “The fee is $8,000 per visa, single-entry valid for up to three months… not refundable if the application is rejected.”
Nauru is where nearly 1000 asylum seekers from Australia are housed in detention centres under the Coalition Government’s “Operation Sovereign Borders” policy.
Journalists could previously pay $400 for a one-year multiple-entry visa to Nauru.
For $100, you can go as a tourist, but the 21-square-kilometre island of 10,000 inhabitants holds little appeal, having been ravaged by the phosphate mining industry that, 40 years ago, gave Nauru the world’s highest per-capita income.
Today the country’s primary income comes from Australia taxpayers in the form of aid and expenses to host the asylum seekers. It began in 2001 as the Pacific Solution under the Howard Government, before the ALP Rudd Government closed the facility in 2008. It reopened again under Labor in 2012.
Some, including the Australian Greens, suspect darker motives lurk behind the decision, believing it’s censorship, designed to price the equally cash-strapped media out of covering what’s happening on the island.
Nauru’s Principal Immigration Officer Ernest Stephen told The Global Mail said the hike “would be for revenue purposes. What else would it be for?”
Expect Kickstarter-style, crowd-funded journalists and photographers to be on their way soon – assuming the visas are approved and Nauru doesn’t just pocket the cash.
The Nauru visa charge will be the envy of Bhutan, previously the world’s most expensive place to visit. The Government of the world’s happiest nation charges visitors a “minimum daily package” fee of $200-$250 to visitors, which includes a $65 “sustainable tourism royalty” to pay for free education and healthcare, poverty alleviation, and infrastructure.
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