N.Z. Prime Minister defends visa policy

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has defended her country’s immigration policy in relation to Samoans requiring to be subjected to a stringent screening process to obtain a visa.

Despite Samoa and New Zealand sharing a Treaty of Friendship, the issue of visas has been a sticking point for many Samoans, especially ones who have no desire to stay in New Zealand and yet are required to go through the process.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Ms. Ardern said while the visa requirements might be annoying, she said New Zealand offers Samoa other more favorable immigration entry policies like the annual Quota scheme. 

“Samoa has access through a quota system,” she said. 

“There is the Seasonal work scheme as well and through some of the specific programmes we’re developing around carpentry and other areas.

“Those are the things not every nation has that Samoa have and so there are things that are unique to our relationship. 

“Not least to the fact that we have a significant resident population in New Zealand of the Samoan community that makes a massive part of who we are and our identity and I think that’s what makes it unique.” 

Told that Jamaicans, Japanese and Italians do not need visas to enter New Zealand yet they don’t have a Treaty of Friendship, Ms. Ardern said those countries don’t have the luxury that Samoa has.

“But they equally cannot come through a Quota System and a seasonal work scheme as well,” she said. 

“There are differences to every relationship that do make them unique.”

Earlier during a press conference, Ms. Ardern announced that they are looking more broadly at areas such as a visa category for carpenters and people in the construction industry. 

 “Our goal is to make sure that when someone comes to New Zealand they have a decent job with a decent income and so that has been one of the requirements,” she said. 

“We know we can offer in those extensive jobs in areas such as carpentry and that has been the focus for us.”

Ms. Ardern’s one and a half-day trip to Samoa came to an end yesterday.

With a copy of the Samoa Observer at hand, Ms. Ardern, her partner Clarke Gayford and their delegation boarded the Royal New Zealand Air Force plane for Niue.

Deputy Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa was at the Faleolo International Airport to see them off.

The N.Z. Prime Minister arrived on Sunday for her first official visit to Samoa since she took over from Leuluaiali’i-o-tumua Bill English as New Zealand’s leader.

Monday was a busy day for Ms. Ardern, starting with the inspection of a Guard of Honour early morning and ending with a reception held at the New Zealand High Commission compound at Letava (see story).

In between, Prime Minister Ardern announced assistance of more than $17million during the visit. 

She met with Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and she also took the time to visit a number of projects, climate change related.

She addressed a climate change luncheon and also spoke to students at the N.U.S and during an event organised by Marist St. Joseph’s Sports Club at Lotopa.

The departure was a low-key affair, just as when they arrived.

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