Anyone following social media news accounts based in Bali will have seen how things have been hotting up over the last few weeks.
While it has always been the case (since the arrival of social media, at least) that videos of foreigners behaving badly quickly go viral, in the last month, things have got wild.
So wild, in fact, that both Bali Immigration and influencers are calling on the online community to just take a breath. One popular Australian-Indonesian content creator, Damian Hoo, referred to the rise in viral videos of ‘Bad Bules’ as a form of vigilantism.
Other long-stay foreigners in Bali have noted how the increase in these videos fuels a feeling of hostility between locals and foreigners.
Immigration offices have spoken out to say reiterate that they are always working behind the scenes. They noted that the rise in viral videos has no impact on the way in which they work.
This fact was also quickly pointed out by Bali’s Governor Koster last week when he announced his proposed crackdown policies on bad tourists.
During his speech, Governor Koster explained, “I want to give a note. I act not because there is a viral story. There is no influence from that viral ; this [new policy announcement] we have been creating since before Covid-19. But, to [announce] this…we cannot rush.”
In fact, deporting badly behaved foreigners from Bali is nothing new. Immigration is famously quick to act against anyone observed to be breaking the law or disrespecting Balinese culture. There were a dozen high-profile deportations in 2022 alone, accompanied by dozens more that didn’t make the headlines.
The majority of deportations of foreigners are due to visa overstays. Speaking to the media, the Head of the Immigration Division of the Regional Office of the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, Barron Ichsan, gave a run down on how his teams work.
Ichsan said, “If it is said that there is an assumption that immigration only works when it goes viral, that answer is not true.”
He revealed that Bali Immigration deported 194 people in 2022 alone. Ichsan noted that of these nearly 200 cases, in most cases, the individual either overstayed their visa or was caught engaging in activities not permitted by their visa, such as work or business.
During the press conference, he reiterated, “So, it’s not because of [viral videos we] just started working. Indeed, we rarely expose the actions we give to foreign nationals.”
He was clear that viral videos have no sway on the actions taken by immigration officials. In fact, the Immigration Official urged the public to stop recording videos of tourists to go viral. Ichsan said it is creating an inaccurate public image of the island.
Ischan explained, “Why do I urge the public not to make it viral? It can be predicted that if this is written up by the international media, it will be branded that Bali is unsafe, and that will reduce tourism in Bali.”
He added, “No one wants to travel to an unsafe place. I urge the public to immediately report any violations they find to immigration offices or the complaint pages we provide.”
It is not only Immigration officials who have called on social media users to take a breath. Australian-Indonesian content creator Damian Hoo posted a video calling on tourists and locals to resist the urge to feed off sensationalism.
In an Instagram reel, Hoo reminds his followers that the ‘bules’ (Caucasian foreigners) bring many good things to Bali. That ‘bules love Bali, and Bali loves Bules.’ He adds that the percentage of foreigners behaving badly is super small.
It remains to be seen if the calls from Immigration and influencers will calm the online storm.
Either way, tourists adhering to the law and respecting Balinese culture have nothing to worry about. Bali is safe. Bali is friendly, and Bali remains one of the leading tourist destinations in the world.
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