A travel influencer has been fined almost £1,000 - simply for carrying a flower through an airport.
Lays Laraya, who has more than 30,000 followers on her Instagram account @skywardsfreak, was handed the fine when she was travelling from Qatar, West Asia, to Perth, Australia, last weekend after forgetting to declare a rose she was carrying. Laraya was fined around A$1,878 (around £950) for falsifying an official document after mistakenly ticking on her passenger landing card that she carried no plants upon arrival at Perth Airport.
She was gifted the flower from cabin crew on her Qatar Airways and said she did not think it was “within the category of plants that they would be looking for” on the declaration form - but shortly after she landed she found this was not the case.
The travel influencer told Insider she had “nothing to hide” and landed the fine for violating Australia’s Biosecurity Act after a screening by airport officials. Flowers pose a biosecurity risk to Australia as they can carry mites, aphids and invasive species. Laraya posted a video with the rose on her Instagram page, but it is now private because she said she had received many negative comments after sharing her story.
‘It didn’t pass through my mind’
Laraya said she didn’t want to place the rose in her hand luggage as she was worried her gift would be damaged so instead she chose to “visibly” carry the flower through Perth Airport. She then had her passport and phone confiscated, while her luggage was also thoroughly searched by two men in civilian clothes.
She said she found the experience “intimidating”. “As a single woman travelling, I don't know if I developed my defence mechanisms, so I was like, 'whoa, that's intimidating.' I said that to them because I didn't know they were officials. And I'm like, 'What the heck is going on here?'. They then showed her their badges confirming their identity.
The influencer claims that she made an honest mistake in failing to declare the present was an honest mistake. She was then stopped because she had ticked a box on her landing card that stated she had not brought any plants into Australia. She said: “It didn’t pass through my mind that the rose was within the category of those plants that they would be looking for,” she said. I checked ‘no’ and that was their accusation in the end. If I knew I was doing something wrong willingly, I would have thrown it away.”
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry states that failure to declare goods known to pose a threat to Australia’s biosystem and providing false information is a serious risk to the country. Infringements carry fines from A$100 to A$1,878 (around £80 to £950), and Laraya was slapped with the highest possible fine.
The rose was eventually returned to Laraya after it had been inspected and the stem had been removed. Laraya told Insider she intends to appeal the fine on the grounds that she alleges that other passengers with similar infringements were only given a warning or much smaller fines. She added, however, that she does not blame Qatar Airways for the situation.
A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry told Insider that the penalty given to Laraya reflects the risk of the action. A spokesperson said: "All travellers coming to Australia must be aware of Australia's strict biosecurity requirements and the penalties for not complying with those requirements.” They added that warnings are provided on a case-by-case basis. A spokesperson for the Australian Border Force declined to comment to Insider.
Laraya said she is “considering whether [she] would come back to Australia”. She added: “This is not revengeful. It's just that I don't know what could happen, right? If I was framed because of a rose on this amount of money, it just shakes my trust in the soundness of the approaches of the country.”