Balinese officials have challenged the claims made by an Australian woman who said she was forced to pay a $1,500 fine for having a dirty passport.
Officials for the Balinese Department of Immigration claim to have found no evidence of the claim made by 28-year-old Melbourne woman Monique Sutherland.
Ms Sutherland claims her and her 60-year-old mother were interrogated and threatened with deportation if they didn’t pay the $1,500 fine to immigration workers after arriving in Bali on June 5.
The Department of Immigration have conducted an investigation, including interviewing immigration officers and Batik Air staff who accompanied Ms Sutherland at Ngurah Rai Airport.
Putu Suhendra Tresnadita, a spokesperson for the airport’s immigration office, said they were trying to ‘verify whether the incident really happened’.
Monique Sutherland claims her and her mother were interrogated and threatened with deportation by the officers because her seven-year-old passport was ‘dirty’ (pictured)
He claims officials have attempted to contact Ms Sutherland through email, WhatsApp and social media platforms.
Barron Ischsan, head of the Immigration Division of the Bali Office of the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, said no response had been received.
‘We have questioned the ground staff of Batik Air, we have also tried to contact Monique and her mother,’ he said on Wednesday.
‘However, they did not respond. This is our correspondence to them.’
Bali immigration will also be coordinating with the headquarters of the Indonesian Directorate General of Immigration in Jakarta to try and contact Ms Sutherland’s mother and daughter.
Ms Sutherland was heading to Bali with her mother for a ‘much needed holiday’.
She told 7News that she was made to sign an additional blue form when she was checking in at the Batik Air counter at Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne because her seven-year-old passport was slightly dirty.
Mr Ischsan claims the form was a statement from Batak Air saying that Ms Sutherland’s passport was not in a condition to fly with.
‘The form that she signed, stated that if she is denied entry to Indonesia, the cost of her way back home would be hers. She insisted on going (anyway),’ he said.
Balinese immigration officials are investigating whether claims an Australian tourist was forced into paying a $1,500 ‘fine’ to immigration officials are real or fabricated
Ms Sutherland claims she was taken into an ‘interrogation room’ after immigration officials were given the blue piece of paper.
She said she was ‘hysterical and petrified’ as the officials laughed and spoke in Indonesian.
She claimed officials told her she would be reported because she was trying to enter the country with a damaged passport, but would be allowed to stay if she paid $1,500.
Ms Sutherland claims her 60-year-old mum was pressured to pay the fine claiming officials threatened to hold onto her passport.
She then claimed her mother reluctantly paid the fine, and the pair were escorted through the airport.
Mr Ischsan claims the three immigration officials Ms Sutherland referenced were interviewed and no evidence was found of $1,500 being exchanged.
A ground handling staff member for Batik Air named Andreas claimed efforts were made to keep Monique and her elderly mother in Indonesia and not deport them.
‘For humanitarian reasons, airport immigration staff officially allowed Monique to enter Indonesia,’ Mr Ischsan said.
Ms Sutherland claimed the ordeal was ‘very traumatic’ and dampened the otherwise relaxing getaway, as she spent time stressing and researching whether her passport is acceptable.
Ms Sutherland’s mother supposedly paid the ‘fine’ and the two were allowed to continue their holiday, however the immigration division can find no evidence supporting the claim (stock image)
After returning from her trip, Ms Sutherland contacted border security officials in Melbourne who told her the passport fiasco was most likely a set-up, claiming the immigration officers used their position to scam her of her money.
‘My passport was never the real issue. It was an easy way to get some money from inexperienced tourists,’ Ms Sutherland.
Mr Ischsan said that if Ms Sutherland was found to have lied about the incident, the immigration department would ‘communicate with the Australian Embassy as this case has gained attention from ministers’.
He also said if his staff had lied to the department about Ms Sutherland’s claims then ‘for sure there would be a sanction’.
‘I will not punish my staff if they make a mistake. I will punish my staff if they are wrong,’ he said.
Passport damage and the law
Aussie travellers should check their passports (pictured) are in good condition
Normal wear and tear to your passport shouldn’t be a problem. More serious damage can stop you from travelling.
If you’re not sure about the condition of your passport, call the Australian Passport Office on 131 232 or contact your nearest Australian embassy or consulate overseas.
It’s important that:
- there are no tears or cuts in the passport pages, especially the photo page
- everything on the photo page is legible and clear
- there are no marks across your photo or in the Machine Readable Zone on the photo page
- no pages have been removed
- there is no alteration or tampering
They may need to see your passport to assess it.
Source: Australian government