Tourist detained in Kazakhstan because immigration officials refuse to believe New Zealand is a country

In a scene that could have come from the Sacha Baron Cohen movie Borat, a beautiful young woman from New Zealand – an adventuress seeking to explore the  natural wonders of the country was detained for almost two days upon arrival at Almaty Airport outside the capital city.  Her offense: attempting to enter the country using a fake passport from a fake country, for the immigration officials were dead certain that New Zealand is a state of Australia.

Lauren McMah of News.com.au reports:

Chloe Phillips-Harris, 28, arrived at Kazakhstan’s Almaty Airport in May after being assured by the New Zealand embassy she would be able to enter the Central Asian country on her Kiwi passport.

But officials at the airport told her she wouldn’t be able to enter the country without an Australian passport, the New Zealand Herald reported.

“I landed in Kazakhstan on the last flight of the night, and I got to an immigration booth and they asked me for an Australian passport, and told me I couldn’t come in without an Australian passport,” Ms Phillips-Harris told the Herald.

“They said New Zealand’s clearly a part of Australia.”

Ms Phillips-Harris said New Zealand was missing from a map of the world in the room she was interrogated in, which made it impossible for her to convince Kazakhstan immigration officials that her home country really existed. (snip)

She said she was interrogated for hours and locked in a guard room for a day and a half.

“It was an empty room with a bed basically,” she said. “I didn’t get any food or water but in the middle of the night they guards clearly felt sorry for me so once immigration police and everyone had gone, the guards would sneak me a drink.

“The guards were really nice and let me wander around the immigration room as long as they were no flights coming in, and if there was a flight they would just shoo me back into the room.”

Eventually, with the help of contacts in Kazakhstan, Ms Phillips was able to secure a new visa, a US passport and an exchange of cash that allowed her to escape detention and enter the country, where she ended up staying for six months

“The people I knew in Kazakhstan got me a new type of visa and paid the right people and got me out, that’s probably the easiest explanation,” she said.

Ms. Philips-Harris likely will dine out on this story for the rest of her life, and she doesn’t sound traumatized in the least.  Her Facebook page reveals she enjoys adventure.

Obviously, part of this incident was a shakedown for a bribe.  But the true hilarity comes in understanding the nature of the Australia-New Zealand relationship.  Kiwis feel vastly overshadowed by the 20 million Aussies, with their own continent and global recognition as a big country.  New Zealand has under four million people and is acutely sensitive to arrogance and what they perceive as a threat of domination by Australia.

As it happens, about 25 years or so ago, I did consulting work in both countries and even conducted an executive retreat for a group that was about half Kiwi and half Aussie, people who ran operations in both countries for a major global firm.  There was a lot of teasing, some of it a bit hostile and pointed, but filed under the label “friendly banter.”  Mostly.

The Kiwis occasionally would break into a famous Maori war chant I am given to understand is a common expression of pride and resentment when hearing Aussies say something that didn’t sufficiently accommodate New Zealand’s needs or perspectives.  There is a lot of sensitivity to being ignored and overshadowed.  The Aussies would, for their part, refer to Melbourne as the second biggest Kiwi city in the world, after Auckland.  And historically, ambitious New Zealanders headed to Australia.  If you substitute Canada for New Zealand and the U.S. for Australia, you may get a sense of the sensitivity.

And now Kazakhstan has revenge for Borat.

Hat tip: John McMahon

In a scene that could have come from the Sacha Baron Cohen movie Borat, a beautiful young woman from New Zealand – an adventuress seeking to explore the  natural wonders of the country was detained for almost two days upon arrival at Almaty Airport outside the capital city.  Her offense: attempting to enter the country using a fake passport from a fake country, for the immigration officials were dead certain that New Zealand is a state of Australia.

Lauren McMah of News.com.au reports:

Chloe Phillips-Harris, 28, arrived at Kazakhstan’s Almaty Airport in May after being assured by the New Zealand embassy she would be able to enter the Central Asian country on her Kiwi passport.

But officials at the airport told her she wouldn’t be able to enter the country without an Australian passport, the New Zealand Herald reported.

“I landed in Kazakhstan on the last flight of the night, and I got to an immigration booth and they asked me for an Australian passport, and told me I couldn’t come in without an Australian passport,” Ms Phillips-Harris told the Herald.

“They said New Zealand’s clearly a part of Australia.”

Ms Phillips-Harris said New Zealand was missing from a map of the world in the room she was interrogated in, which made it impossible for her to convince Kazakhstan immigration officials that her home country really existed. (snip)

She said she was interrogated for hours and locked in a guard room for a day and a half.

“It was an empty room with a bed basically,” she said. “I didn’t get any food or water but in the middle of the night they guards clearly felt sorry for me so once immigration police and everyone had gone, the guards would sneak me a drink.

“The guards were really nice and let me wander around the immigration room as long as they were no flights coming in, and if there was a flight they would just shoo me back into the room.”

Eventually, with the help of contacts in Kazakhstan, Ms Phillips was able to secure a new visa, a US passport and an exchange of cash that allowed her to escape detention and enter the country, where she ended up staying for six months

“The people I knew in Kazakhstan got me a new type of visa and paid the right people and got me out, that’s probably the easiest explanation,” she said.

Ms. Philips-Harris likely will dine out on this story for the rest of her life, and she doesn’t sound traumatized in the least.  Her Facebook page reveals she enjoys adventure.

Obviously, part of this incident was a shakedown for a bribe.  But the true hilarity comes in understanding the nature of the Australia-New Zealand relationship.  Kiwis feel vastly overshadowed by the 20 million Aussies, with their own continent and global recognition as a big country.  New Zealand has under four million people and is acutely sensitive to arrogance and what they perceive as a threat of domination by Australia.

As it happens, about 25 years or so ago, I did consulting work in both countries and even conducted an executive retreat for a group that was about half Kiwi and half Aussie, people who ran operations in both countries for a major global firm.  There was a lot of teasing, some of it a bit hostile and pointed, but filed under the label “friendly banter.”  Mostly.

The Kiwis occasionally would break into a famous Maori war chant I am given to understand is a common expression of pride and resentment when hearing Aussies say something that didn’t sufficiently accommodate New Zealand’s needs or perspectives.  There is a lot of sensitivity to being ignored and overshadowed.  The Aussies would, for their part, refer to Melbourne as the second biggest Kiwi city in the world, after Auckland.  And historically, ambitious New Zealanders headed to Australia.  If you substitute Canada for New Zealand and the U.S. for Australia, you may get a sense of the sensitivity.

And now Kazakhstan has revenge for Borat.

Hat tip: John McMahon

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