Nauru says it has changed procedures for Australians applying for visitor visas after an unnamed ABC journalist ‘dishonestly’ entered the country as a tourist and failed to declare they were media.
The statements were made on the government’s official Twitter account after an revealed that Nauru Airlines had informed passengers their visitor visas had been "revoked until further notice."
The ABC has denied one of its journalists entered Nauru as a tourist, and said in a statement this afternoon that its staff applied through official channels to enter the island nation.
"There is no ABC News journalist on assignment in Nauru. ABC News journalists have applied through official channels for journalist visas to visit Nauru, not for tourist visas", a spokesperson said.
A Department of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman said the government was seeking clarification from Nauru on the changes.
"Any Australian with questions regarding their visa for Nauru should contact the consulate-general of the Republic of Nauru," the spokeswoman said.
The Nauruan government sought to clarify the initial reports, tweeting: “Visas to Nauru have not revoked. Procedures have been changed. Gov will issue statement soon.
In a second tweet, that has since been deleted, it said: “Changes in visa policy implemented after ABC dishonestly entered country as tourist & failed to declare they were media”
A third, also deleted, tweet read: “Citizens of Aust & NZ entering honestly for genuine reasons still welcome in Nauru. Those with existing visas should reapply if unsure.
The most recent tweet from the account said the Nauruan government stood by information in the deleted tweets “but wanted to provide clear facts on current visa requirements.
The controversy comes as in Sydney today.
Earlier, an airline reservation line told callers the announcement was made by Nauru’s justice minister David Adeang yesterday.
Nauru Airlines check-in staff at Brisbane airport on Thursday night informed Australian passport holders for Friday morning’s 1am flight ON002 that their visas were no longer valid.
Nauru Airlines is advising callers that ticket refunds are available for those affected.
Nauru hosts one of Australia’s two off-shore asylum seeker detention centres.
In January 2013 the Nauruan government increased journalist visa application fees from $200 to $8000, even if the visa application was rejected.
Today, Greens leader Richard Di Natale called on the government to "come clean with the Australian community" over what goes on inside Immigration detention centres.
"[The government] needs to open up those detention camps to scrutiny," he said. "And once it does that it knows support for its policies, which are cruel or inhumane, will collapse.
"The foundations of a decent society are that we allow journalists and human-rights monitors to do their job and to speak truth to power. This is a government that is stopping those very foundations of what it means to live in a decent society: access from journalists, a free media, free press and indeed squashing human rights observers and their capacity to report on what’s going on."
The visa announcement comes as a stand-off between doctors and the immigration department continues over discharging asylum seeker baby "Asha" from a Brisbane hospital.
Immigration minister Peter Dutton said on Thursday the infant would be returned offshore once she had recovered from wounds from a boiling water accident on Nauru.
Doctors are refusing to release the one-year-old until a "suitable home environment is identified”.
Hundreds of people have held vigils and rallies since last Friday in support of letting the child stay in Australia.
A screen grab of the tweets that were deleted by the @Republic_Nauru Twitter account Source: Twitter