A “much needed” relaxing holiday in Bali has turned into a nightmare for a Melbourne woman, all because of a seemingly trivial detail in her passport.
As Monique Sutherland and her 60-year-old mother traveled from Tullamarine airport to the Indonesian island hotspot, staff reportedly asked her to sign an extra form because she The passport is “a bit dirty”.
“While at the Batik Air counter at Tullamarine Airport, I was asked to sign an extra blue form which I was told would have to be shown every time I presented my passport,” Monique told Seven News.
“It’s because my passport is seven years old and it’s kind of dirty.”
Boarding went smoothly and the pair landed in Bali, but the situation at immigration quickly deteriorated.
“Pay $1500 or be deported”
Once at Indonesian customs, the extra paperwork didn’t seem to help much, the young woman said.
“I was asked if I was alone and if I was a regular traveler (which I wasn’t) … and I was taken into a small interrogation room,” she said.
“Officials kept coming and going and questioning me for over an hour. I was hysterical and stunned.”
Monique said she was terrified when the immigration officers spoke Bahasa Indonesia and laughed at each other, then told her she would be deported unless she paid the US$1,000 (US$1,500) fee.
“However, my passport was actually accepted and it had been stamped with a visa entry and it wasn’t until I handed them the blue form that I was selected,” she told Seven News.
The 28-year-old refused because she had recently lost her job, so the police demanded money from her mother and “convinced her to pay”.
Passengers were escorted out of the airport for free after paying their fees – but Monique found it difficult to relax and enjoy her trip after her “traumatic” ordeal.
“The whole vacation was spent stressing about the experience and researching whether my passport was acceptable,” she said.
“It was a horrible experience … very traumatic.”
Traveler suspects $1,500 ordeal was ‘set up’
The pair’s journey back to Melbourne went well and after landing Monique spoke to an Australian border security agent about what had happened in Bali. They told her it appeared to be a design.
“My passport was never really an issue,” she said. “It’s an easy way to make money from inexperienced tourists.”
Damaged passports could prevent Australians from traveling
Authorities in Bali are known for their strict passport rules after cracking down on travelers with damaged passports. In 2019, Australia began slapping airlines with $7,000 fines for carrying passengers with damaged passports, and some were even ordered to return to Australia.
According to the Australian Passport Office, serious damage to your passport may prevent you from traveling. But the website states: “Normal wear and tear should not be a problem”. Australian travelers urged to keep their passports “intact and in good condition”.
Just last month, another Australian traveler was told she couldn’t board a flight to Bali because of a small tear in the binding of her passport. She claims she lost $2,000 during the ordeal.
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