Visa free facility, criminality

Illegal levies on holiday makers from China had continued despite the visa free travel given by the government including for visitors from China.
Beijing (ANTARA News) - In early April 2015 a number of Chinese tourists complained about being forced to pay illegal levy by Indonesian immigration officers upon arrival at Jakartas Soekarno Hatta and Balis Ngurah Rai International Airports.

XU Yongjing, a representative of Shanghai Airlines Travel (SAT), said each member of groups of Chinese tourists was asked to pay US$50 when applying for visa on arrival.

Averagely a group had 20 members, Xu Yongjing said in an electronic letter to Indonesian representative office in China.

The payment was higher if visa was applied individually, he added.

The group leader said he understood that giving a tip is normal in most airports in ASEAN countries.

"But it is too much if a tourist was charged up to 100 yuan or around US$20," he said.

Worse still is that a tourist was charged with a payment of US$50 - US$200 by the customs and excise officials both in Soekarno Hatta and Ngurah Rai airports, if found taking picture at the airports.

Illegal levies on holiday makers from China had continued despite the visa free travel given by the government including for visitors from China.

"We are supposed to have visa free facility, but we continue to have to pay at the airport" said Zhang Wei, who just returned from Indonesia.

Indonesian Ambassador to China and Mongolia Soegeng Rahardjo said many Chinese officials had asked him about the allegation.

"I have to show a shameless face when such questions were addressed directly to me at official forums such as seminars on bilateral issues. This is embarrassing," the ambassador said.

China was among a number of countries given the visa free facility for short term visits earlier this year.

The policy is aimed at attracting more foreign tourists to Indonesia.

Earlier this month Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Rizal Ramli said the government had decided to waive visa requirement for short term visitors from 84 more countries hoping to boost number of tourists visiting the country.

Among the 84 countries include Australia, Brazil, Ukraine, Kenya, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Palestine, Honduras, Pakistan, Mongolia. Sierra Leone, Uruguay, Bosnia Herzegovina, Costa Rica, Albania, Mozambique, Macedonia, El Salvador, Zambia, Moldova, Madagascar, Georgia, Namibia, Kiribati, Armenia, Bolivia, Bhutan, Guatemala, Mauritania and Paraguay.

Rizal said he hoped that the visa waiving facility would boost the number of foreign tourists to the country, which hopes to attract 20 million foreign tourists in 2019.

A strong growth of 19 percent was recorded in the number of foreign visitors after the granting of visa free travel for 47 new countries last October.

"The growth was much higher than a normal growth of 6-8 percent," Rizal said.

Altogether, with the 84 countries, the government has granted visa free facility 174 countries.

"Offering visa-free travel is one of the easiest ways to boost tourist numbers," Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said earlier.

The government also hopes to open more jobs in the tourism sector from 3 million at present to 7 million in five years.

Neighboring Malaysia offers visa-free travel to 164 countries and Thailand to 56 countries.

Both Malaysia and Thailand attract far more tourists than Indonesia each year.

Last year, Indonesia recorded 9 million foreign tourist arrivals in 2014, rising from 8.8 million visitors in 2013.

Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said in October, 2015 alone 825,818 foreign tourists visited Indonesia or an increase of 2.11 percent from the same month last year.

The number of visitors was below target of 900,000 in October but cumulatively the number almost reached the target at 8.1 million in the first 10 months of the year.

In the January-September period this year realization overshot the target of 7 million with 7.2 million tourists.

The target set for the rest of the year is 3 million bringing the whole years target to 10 million.

Visitors from China totaled 873,897 tourists in the first nine months of the year or an increase of 20.04 percent on year.

Criminality

The visa free facility is expected to woo more foreign tourists, but it is also feared to give wider room for drug trafficking, money laundering and cyber crime.

Weak control and law enforcement in Indonesia would further contribute to rampant cross border crimes.

In mid December this year, West Jakarta police busted a Chinese drug ring confiscating methamphetamine worth Rp65 billion on the street.

Meanwhile, the National Anti Drug Agency (BNN) unveiled 102 narcotics and money laundering cases involving national and international syndicates so far this year.

BNN arrested 202 suspects including 28 foreigners in the cases, agency chief police Comr.Gen. Budi Waseso said.

BNN confiscated evidence including marijuana, methamphetamine, ecstasy, etc. in the drug related cases and seized assets worth more than Rp85 billion in money laundering cases.

Recently 30 Chinese were nabbed on charge of cyber crime in Cilandak, South Jakarta.

The cases was attributable to the visa free facility with weak control and law enforcement.

Indonesia is indeed rich in natural beauty with cultural diversity that make it a heaven for foreign tourists, but the waiving of visa requirement also contribute to rampant international crimes in the country.(*)

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