28-year-old tourist says she was detained at an airport in Kazakhstan after immigration officials refused to believe that New Zealand was a country and insisted it was a state of Australia.
Chloe Phillips-Harris, who holds a New Zealand passport, said she was interrogated for hours and held in a guard room at Almaty Airport for a day and a half.
She said that a map in the interrogation room did not show New Zealand, which made it impossible for her to persuade the guards that her country existed.
“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,” she told The New Zealand Herald.
“They said New Zealand’s clearly a part of Australia… It’s just really unfortunate there was a world map that didn’t have New Zealand on it.”
Ms Phillips-Harris, a self-described adventurer, horse rider and journalist “who likes to wander off the beaten track”, said she was detained while entering Kazakhstan, where she planned to travel and work on farms.
Airport officials made her board a flight for China, but she contacted “someone who could help” and was allowed back to the airport but was then detained.
“Plain-clothes policemen got involved, immigration police got involved, airport officials got involved … and at that stage it was a bit late to bribe my way out, which apparently is what I was supposed to do from the beginning, but being a New Zealander we're not familiar with that,” she said.
"It was an empty room with a bed basically. 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.
“They had a half-drunk bottle of 7 Up. They did this thing of pouring it into two glasses and one of them drank one glass to show it was safe to drink… The guards were really nice.”
Ms Phillips-Harris said she was eventually able to enter after her contacts helped her to secure a new visa and obtain a United States passport. She spent six months travelling around the country and returned to New Zealand last month.
The New Zealand ministry of foreign affairs and trade told The New Zealand Herald it was "aware of the case, and a consular official has been in touch with family in New Zealand".
"The case has been resolved," said a spokesman.