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Sri Lanka cuts long-term visas for Russians over “whites only” party

The organisers, venue & Russian Embassy in Colombo have each issued a statement of apology

  • Words: Amira Waworuntu | Image: Shutterstock
  • 5 March 2024
Sri Lanka cuts long-term visas for Russians over “whites only” party

A group of Russian expats in the resort town of Unawatuna, Sri Lanka, has sparked outrage on social media due to their controversial event flyer.

The event scheduled for Saturday, February 24, at the Russian-managed Sarayka Lounge was cancelled based on a discriminatory entry policy that stated "Face Control: White", implying non-white individuals would be denied entry.

An individual claiming to be the event organiser has apologised on his now-deleted Instagram account, insisting that there was “no malice or racism” intended and that the event was purely to “meet expats who have been living here for a long time and love Sri Lanka.”

Sarayka Lounge has also issued a statement of apology, announcing that they “urgently” cancelled the event and “severed ties with the organisers”. In addition, venue owners admitted to not conducting a “thorough enough check” on the event.

Read the full statement in the caption below.

The Russian Embassy in Colombo stated on X that Russia “strongly condemns racial discrimination and nationalism”, urging its citizens to respect local laws and customs.

Following the cancellation of the party, the Sri Lankan Tourism Development Authority declared the discontinuation of complimentary long-term visa extensions for Russian and Ukrainian tourists starting February 23. A 14-day grace period has been granted, allowing those without new visas to stay until March 7.

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According to Public Security Minister Tiran Alles, those affected and who wish to stay in Sri Lanka will be required to pay approximately US$50 for a 30-day visa.

“Whoever wants to stay back can apply for new visas,” Alles explained. “They can immediately renew their visas and remain here.”

This decision to discontinue the visas was made without prior approval from the Cabinet.

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Sri Lanka's tourism department reports that over 288,000 Russians and nearly 20,000 Ukrainians have visited the country since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 — the exact number of those who have extended their stay beyond the typical 30-day tourist visa is unknown.

The country’s immigration department previously extended visas because some airlines weren't operating in the area. However, now that passenger aviation has returned to normal, Russians and Ukrainians without proper visas must leave the country by March 7.

Via: EuroNews & Business Insider

Amira Waworuntu is Mixmag Asia’s Managing Editor, follow her on Instagram.

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