Indonesia will stop issuing visas on arrival to Iranians after a growing number of them have been caught smuggling drugs or have used the country as a transit point before seeking asylum in Australia, an immigration official said Friday.
Amir Syamsuddin, justice and human rights minister, signed a decree on Thursday revoking the visa on arrival option for Iranians that has been in place since 2005, said Maryoto Hadi, spokesman for the immigration office. The new restrictions start Aug. 20.
“Many Iranians are misusing such visa facilities,” Hadi said. “They did not come here for tourism purposes, but to smooth their way to seek asylum in Australia and for drugs smuggling.”
Although the move could slow the growing flow of asylum seekers traveling to Australia by boat, he declined to say whether the decision was to fulfill a request from Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd during a meeting with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono earlier this month.
“It’s clear their arrival made us overwhelmed, many came here for harmful activities,” Hadi said, adding that Indonesia will continue to issue visas to Iranians who qualify for travel after applying at its overseas embassies.
Australia is trying to stop the flow of migrants there by sending them to other countries to live, reaching an agreement with Papua New Guinea on Friday.
Indonesia has granted visas on arrival to more than 60 countries, including Iran, in a bid to boost tourism by making it easier for foreigners from those nations to obtain visas for $25 at 15 airports and 21 seaports.
Indonesia has become a major transit point for people fleeing persecution or economic hardship in their home countries. Many risk their lives on rickety boats en route to Australia’s Christmas Island, located 500 kilometers (310 miles) south of Indonesia’s capital. Hundreds have died in sea accidents during the dangerous journey.
Copyright (2013) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.