Balinese officials have challenged the claims of an Australian woman who said she was forced to pay a $1,500 fine for having a dirty passport.
Officials at the Balinese Department of Immigration claimed there was no evidence to support the claims of 28-year-old Melbourne woman Monique Sutherland.
Miss Sutherland claimed she and her 60-year-old mother were interrogated and threatened with deportation if they did not pay a $1,500 fine to immigration officials after arriving in Bali on June 5.
The Department of Immigration conducted an investigation, which included interviews with immigration officers and Batik Air staff who were with Ms Sutherland at Ngurah Rai Airport.
Putu Suhendra Tresnadita, spokesman for the airport’s immigration office, said they were trying to verify ‘whether the incident really happened’.
Monique Sutherland claims she and her mother were questioned and threatened with deportation by officers because her seven-year-old passport was ‘dirty’ (pictured)
He claimed officers tried to contact Ms Sutherland via email, WhatsApp and social media platforms.
Baron Ishsan, head of the immigration department at the Ministry of Law and Human Rights’ Bali office, said there was no response.
“We have questioned Batik Air’s ground staff, we have tried to contact Monique and her mother,” he said on Wednesday.
‘But they didn’t respond. This is our correspondence with them.’
Bali Immigration will also coordinate with Indonesia’s Directorate General of Immigration headquarters in Jakarta and try to contact Ms Sutherland’s mother and daughter.
Ms Sutherland was traveling to Bali with her mother for a ‘much needed holiday’.
He told 7News he was asked to sign an extra blue form when checking in at the Batik Air counter at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport because his seven-year-old passport was a bit dirty.
Mr Ishsan claimed the form was a statement from Batak Air stating that Ms Sutherland’s passport was not in flight condition.
The form he signed stated that if he was denied entry to Indonesia, he would pay for his return home. He insisted on going (anyway),’ she said.
Balinese immigration officials are investigating claims that an Australian tourist was forced to pay a $1,500 ‘fine’ to immigration officials.
Ms Sutherland claimed she was taken into an ‘interrogation room’ after handing a blue piece of paper to immigration officials.
She said she was ‘hysterical and horrified’ as officers laughed and spoke in Indonesian.
He claimed officials told him he would be reported because he was trying to enter the country with a damaged passport, but would be allowed to stay if he paid $1,500.
Ms Sutherland claimed her 60-year-old mother was pressured into paying the fine by claiming officials threatened to withhold her passport.
He then claims that his mother unwillingly paid the fine, and the couple was taken through the airport.
Mr Ishsan claimed Ms Sutherland was interviewed by three immigration officers and found no evidence the $1,500 had been exchanged.
A Batik Air ground handling staff member named Andreas claimed that efforts were made to keep Monique and her elderly mother in Indonesia and not deport them.
‘For humanitarian reasons, immigration staff at the airport have officially allowed Monik to enter Indonesia,’ said Mr Issan.
Ms Sutherland claimed the ordeal was ‘extremely painful’ and marred an otherwise relaxing journey, as she spent time stressing and researching whether her passport was acceptable.
Ms Sutherland’s mother supposedly paid the ‘fine’ and the pair were allowed to continue their holiday, but the Immigration Department found no evidence to support the claim (stock image)
After returning from her trip, Ms Sutherland contacted border security officials in Melbourne who told her the passport failure was likely a set-up, claiming immigration officials had used their position to swindle her money.
‘My passport was never a real problem. It was an easy way to get some money from inexperienced tourists,’ Ms Sutherland.
Mr Ishsan said that if Ms Sutherland was found to be lying about the incident, the Department of Immigration would ‘contact the Australian Embassy as this case has come to the attention of ministers’.
He added that if his staff had lied to the department about Ms Sutherland’s claims there would ‘definitely 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 loss and the law
Travelers to Australia should check their passports (pictured) are in good condition
Normal wear and tear on your passport should not be a problem. More serious damage may prevent you from traveling.
If you are unsure about the status of your passport, call the Australian Passport Office on 131 232 or contact your nearest Australian Embassy or Consulate overseas.
It is important that:
There are no tears or cuts on the passport pages, especially on the photo page everything is clear and clean, there are no marks across your photo or photo pages have been removed in the machine readable zone, there is no alteration or tampering.
They may need to see your passport to assess it.
Source: Australian Government