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Denial of Samoans' rights no way to treat friends

20 May 2004

Denial of Samoans' rights no way to treat special friends

The Green Party is not happy with the Government Administration Committee's refusal to reinstate the right of many Samoans' to New Zealand citizenship.

Green MP Keith Locke sat on the Government Administration Committee that considered a 100,000-signature petition calling for the repeal of the Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act 1982.

"There is no reason why the committee could not have rectified the huge injustice suffered by thousands of Samoans when their citizenship was cancelled by the Muldoon government in 1982," said Mr Locke, the Green Party's Foreign Affairs Spokesperson.

"The majority of the committee argues that it can't impose New Zealand citizenship obligations on those Samoans affected, but there was another course available.

"In my Minority View in the report, I have proposed that we offer New Zealand citizenship to the estimated 52,000 Samoans detrimentally affected by the 1982 legislation. They would have the individual choice of accepting or rejecting that citizenship. To take this course would be to implement the spirit of the petition, so widely backed by the Samoan people.

"The Green Party supports the committee's desire to 'revisit, review and renew' the 1962 Treaty of Friendship between New Zealand and Samoa. There is supposed to be a special relationship between the two countries, yet in many respects Samoans are disadvantaged compared with people of other nationalities.

"As the report points out, at least 46 countries have visa free entry into New Zealand, but Samoans are denied this right. This has created great difficulties for Samoans visiting New Zealand for family occasions or to work or study here. Gaining permanent residence has also been difficult, despite a Samoan quota, because of the points system and a requirement to pre-arrange a job paying quite a high hourly rate.

"The Green Party's Minority View in the report proposes that the problems of access to entry visas and permanent residence be overcome by putting Samoans on the same footing as Australians in New Zealand. Samoans would then have the right to freely enter New Zealand and live and work here with the same entitlements as Australians do.

"If that is not acceptable to the New Zealand Government, then Samoans could be given rights similar to those New Zealanders currently enjoy in Australia - that is, Samoans could enter, live and work freely in New Zealand, with social welfare benefits restricted for an initial period," said Mr Locke.

ENDS

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