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Thursday 10 March 2016 | Published in Regional


YAREN – A former president of Nauru says his country’s recent changes to visitor visas for Australia and New Zealand are “crazy”.

Under the new immigration rules, Australians and New Zealanders wanting to visit the Pacific nation will need a sponsorship letter from a Nauruan citizen.

If visitors breach the visa restrictions, the sponsor faces a fine of up to $5000 as well as a maximum sentence of one year in jail.

Nauru’s former president Sprent Dabwido said most Nauruans would be “intimidated” by the measure.

“It’s crazy, why these two nations?” he said.

“What has Australia and New Zealand done to deserve this kind of restriction on their citizens if they want to come to Nauru?

“Probably it’s a warning to those not to even think about sponsoring people from Australia and New Zealand.

“It’s another wall being built on top of the walls they’ve already built.”

Visitor visas from Australia and New Zealand were cancelled last month following the sudden rule change.

Nauru’s government, which has criticised Australian media for coverage of immigration issues, said the move was in response to an ABC journalist attempting to enter the country as a visitor, a claim the ABC denies.

Several Australian and international media organisations have unsuccessfully sought approval to visit Nauru to report on the country’s agreement with Australia to take asylum seekers who arrive by boat.

The cost of journalist visas in Nauru was raised to $8000 two years ago.

Dabwido said the latest measures were “embarrassing and wrong”.

“They’ve done it to target advocates and probably the media of Australia and New Zealand, that’s probably the hidden agenda behind what they are doing,” he said. - ABC