The processing of New Zealand visa applications lodged by Samoans keen on visiting family is in the spotlight again, with a Cabinet Minister describing it as “embarrassing and heartbreaking”.
Samoa’s Minister of Police, Faualo Harry Schuster, told Auckland-based station Radio Samoa in a recent interview that Samoan citizens are still struggling with the New Zealand Immigration visa application process.
He said the issue is currently being discussed at the Government level as well as using the Treaty of Friendship agreement signed by both countries.
“The issue of visa applications is currently being discussed, as we are not just looking at it from the point of immigration for workers and migrants to New Zealand, but also from the perspective of a country that has endorsed the Treaty of Friendship with New Zealand,” Faualo said.
“It seems a little embarrassing and heartbreaking at times. If you are coming to New Zealand to pick fruit, it only takes five days to get a visa.
“But if you have a good job and you wish to come to New Zealand for health care or just to visit, because you can afford to, it takes a long time to get a visa. The investigations are also too strenuous.”
Asked by the radio station why he thinks it is hard for Samoans to get a visitor’s visa to New Zealand, the Minister said it was strange to him.
“The New Zealand Immigration laws are difficult anyway. But the strange thing to me personally, is that many of the small island countries were under the governance of New Zealand including Samoa before independence.
“For instance, New Zealand and Niue, Tokelau and Cook Islands travel freely between New Zealand and their islands. Just like Africans going to England, as the British governed a lot of Africa before.
“Even though we were under New Zealand through the British government, for a short time, we still did not have an agreement for visas, so it is as if when we go to New Zealand, we never had relations with them.
“Despite the fact that the United Nations mandate allowed for our independence, we were still governed by New Zealand under the British colonial model from 1914 till our independence. So we are like other Pacific islands like Tonga and Fiji when they come to New Zealand.”
Asked what the Samoa Government would do in their negotiations with their New Zealand counterparts to address the issue, Faualo said: “The visa conditions are very difficult, even though some people want to live and educate their children here [in New Zealand], a lot of our people do not want to move here [to New Zealand].
“A lot of Samoans just want to visit and return home. You can see it with the seasonal workers going to Australia. Even though they are given the opportunity to become citizens of Australia, many of them still opt to return home to their families.
“We have been trying to export vegetables to New Zealand but they always tell us it is the fruit fly. But to me, there is fruit fly everywhere, yet this excuse is given to us all the time. “Even Australia has the fruit fly but New Zealand gets fruits from Australia,” he said.