The family of Russian tourists visiting Mataram in West Nusa Tenggara started busking and begging for money to survive since they are unable to fly home as a result of coronavirus restrictions in their country.
Mataram Immigration Office head Syahrifullah said officials had detained the family — 29-year-old Mikhail, 28-year-old Ekaterina and their 2-year-old daughter Serafima — after a video showing them busking at Kebon Roek traditional market went viral on social media.
The video showed Mikhail playing an accordion in front of the market to the amusement of passersby, while Ekaterina swayed next to him while carrying their daughter.
“They busked, begged for money from locals and used the money to buy food. We tracked them down after receiving reports from residents,” Syahrifullah said.
He said the family had all the necessary documents and permits to stay in Indonesia. However, they were detained due to their busking activities.
“Even though they are not allowed to busk, beg or make money here, we gave them leniency due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “If it wasn’t for the COVID-19 outbreak, I would have carried out stricter actions.”
Mikhail said his family could not return home because Russia had imposed a nationwide lockdown in response to its coronavirus outbreak.
“We traveled in Malaysia before flying to Indonesia and we initially planned to spend only two days here and return afterward,” he said, “However, Malaysia imposed a lockdown so we decided to go to Bali [through West Nusa Tenggara].”
Mikhail said he busked in Bali but police officers forbade it. “We only have money for a month’s stay in Bali. So we decided to go back to West Nusa Tenggara to find opportunities to busk. But we could not do it here either.”
Despite the challenges, he said locals had shown generosity and friendliness to his family.
Syahrifullah said that Mikhail and his family would be transported to the Russian Consulate General in Bali.
“We’ve communicated with the Russian Consulate General. The officials said they would support the family until they could return to Russia,” he said. “All flights and ferries from Lombok to Bali and vice versa have been canceled except for logistics, but we gave the family leniency to cross.”
He said the family had been tested for COVID-19 and the results came back negative.