Russians, Ukrainians Fleeing to This Island to Escape War. But, it Has Brought Trouble to the Asian Paradise

Last Updated: March 19, 2023, 11:28 IST

A foreign tourist walks on a beach in Seminyak, Badung regency on Indonesia resort island of Bali, on December 7, 2022. (AFP)

The Indonesian authorities have urged for an end to the country’s visa-on-arrival policy for Russian and Ukrainian citizens as there have been rising incidents of misbehaviour

Ever since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a war in Ukraine last year, Indonesia’s most famous holiday island has become a magnet for thousands of Russians and Ukrainians seeking to escape the horrors of war.

Around 58,000 Russians have visited Bali in 2022 following its reopening after Covid-19 and 22,500 arrived in January alone this year, CNN reported.

Over 7,000 Ukrainians also arrived in the Southeast Asian idyll in 2022 and around 2,500 in January this year.

The high number of Russian visitors in Indonesia has made them the second biggest group of tourists after Australians.

The influx of Russians and Ukrainians into Bali come despite a rule in Kyiv banning all men aged 18 to 60 from leaving the country. Similarly, Russia has mobilised reservists to join the battle leading to many young men fleeing abroad.

However, those fleeing the violence in Ukraine and Russia have created trouble for Balinese authorities.

The authorities have urged for an end to Indonesia’s visa-on-arrival policy for Russian and Ukrainian citizens as there have been rising incidents involving misbehavior and visitors overstaying their visas.

The report said that many visitors have fled the war and working illegally as hairdressers, tour guides and taxi drivers. Many Ukrainians in Bali alleged that most of the incidents involved Russians and claimed they are being unfairly tarred with the same brush.

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“Whenever we get reports about a foreigner behaving badly, it’s almost always Russian,” a police officer reportedly said.

“Foreigners come to Bali but they behave like they are above the law. This has always been the case and it has to finally stop,” he added.

However, it’s not just Bali which is bearing the brunt of the war.

The island of Phuket in Thailand, famous for its beaches, has seen a sudden influx of Russian visitors. Many of the Russian visitors are buying property to ensure they can enjoy long-term stays.

“Life in Russia is very different now,” a former investment banker from Russia who bought an apartment in Thailand said adding “No one wants to stay and live in the middle of war.”

“It is stressful thinking about the possibility of returning to Russia and being punished… So it makes sense to invest in a place which costs less than Moscow and is safer,” he added.

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