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Samoan protest shows depth of feeling

1 July 2004

Samoan protest shows depth of feeling at NZ restrictions

Green MP Keith Locke says a 5000-strong protest march in Apia yesterday shows the depth of feeling in Samoa over the way New Zealand's immigration restrictions are detrimentally affecting them.

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi spoke at the rally, drawing applause for a commitment to raise the issue with Helen Clark. Both the Samoan Government and opposition are backing calls for Samoans' visa-free status to be reinstated in New Zealand. In May New Zealand's Government Administration Committee considering a 100,000-strong petition on Samoan citizenship issues recommended that relations with Samoa should be reviewed, including migration issues.

"This was a large protest for a small country, so it clearly demonstrates the intense frustration Samoans feel about the restrictions they are currently facing," said Mr Locke, the Green Party's Foreign Affairs and Human Rights Spokesperson.

"The Green Party support the stand taken by the Apia protest and Samoan politicians from across the political spectrum, so we will continue to call for Samoans to have freer entry to New Zealand.

"At least 46 countries have visa-free entry into New Zealand, but Samoans, to whom we have an obligation to correct historical injustices and with whom we supposedly have a friendship treaty, are denied this right. This creates great difficulties for Samoans visiting New Zealand for family occasions or to work or study.

"Not only are Samoans facing these injustices specific to them; the pregnancy testing regime and the requirement to pre-arrange a job when applying for permanent residence are just two of the barriers being imposed on Pacific Islanders coming to New Zealand."

Mr Locke sat on the Government Administration Committee's deliberations on the petition, putting forward a minority view that Samoans should at least have the same status as Australians in New Zealand.

ENDS

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