Bali considers tightening Ukrainian and Russian visas

As Russia’s war in Ukraine continues to rage, Russians and Ukrainians have kept flocking to Bali.

However, the Indonesian government is considering ending the visa-on-arrival privileges for Russians and Ukrainians.

The calls to end the visas for Ukrainians and Russians come after a string of alleged incidents involving misbehaviour and visitors overstaying their visas to work in the country illegally, CNN reported.

It is the latest move by Bali to deal with troublesome travellers, with the province recently banning unmarried foreigners from having sex while on holiday there, and a crackdown on loutish behaviour by Australian tourists.

Bali Governor Wayan Koster has requested to end the visas on arrival for people coming from the two countries and he did so amid complaints from locals, Al Jazeera reported.

He acknowledged the war between the two countries and that people were unsafe back at home, but claimed people were coming to Bali not for leisure but to find work, with claims of poor behaviour.

The Indonesian Minister of Tourism promised to review Mr Koster’s request, but he said the number of Ukrainians and Russians causing problems “is not yet significant”.

The Indonesian government is still considering whether it will fulfil the request of Balinese authorities.

The rules

Travellers from several countries can obtain visas upon arrival, while others have to do so before they depart. The visas can then be extended beyond the initial 30 days.

According to Reuters, between September 2022 and January 2023, more than 77,500 Russians arrived in Indonesia. In the same period in 2019, some 88,000 Russians visited the country.

Far fewer Ukrainians have visited Indonesia from September to January, with just under 9000 entering Indonesia.

Following Russia’s invasion, Ukraine barred all men aged between 18 and 60 from leaving the country.

Ukraine’s Honorary Consulate in Bali told CNN the majority of Ukrainians in the country were females and were not there for tourism, but for family unification reasons.

The consulate said those individuals didn’t want to violate any local rules or regulations, and some 8500 Ukrainians on temporary or permanent visas have made the idyllic island their home.

Russia has now put a widespread ban on people leaving the country, but when reservists were mobilised to join the war, young men fled abroad, CNN reported.

Why is Bali considering the visa change?

Ukrainians claim many of the incidents that have happened in Bali involve Russians and say they have been lumped in with them unfairly.

The request from Bali’s Governor drew criticism from Ukraine’s Ambassador to Indonesia, Vasyl Hamianin.

This is very offensive to my feelings as a Ukraine citizen, because [they are] generalising [about] Russians and Ukrainians and blaming them for something that is not proven,” he said, according to Coconuts Bali.

One police officer from Kuta shared that sentiment, telling CNN whenever there is a report of a foreigner “behaving badly”, it’s “almost always” a Russian.

The police officer was not identified and said foreigners coming to Bali and acting as if they are above the law, from any country, is nothing new, but it had to “finally stop”.

Authorities claim foreigners are working on the island as hairdressers, taxi drivers and sex workers, despite not having a work visa, which is legally required, Al Jazeera reported.

Locals have also taken offence to the actions of some Russians in Bali.

A Russian model posed nude at the site of a sacred tree and a man allegedly struck a pedestrian while driving under the influence of alcohol, Reuters reported.

It’s not just Russians and Ukrainians coming to Bali to escape the war.

Belarus, a neighbouring country that has sided with Russia, has seen people flee also, said Sergei Ovseikin, a Russian street artist living in Bali told CNN.

He says he came to Bali as a tourist and he is against wars “no matter where they take place”.

“A lot of people who disagreed with the war flew to Bali – Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians and others,” he said.

“We all get along well with each other … and understand that ordinary people did not start this war.”

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