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Seizing of Samoan passports raises concerns

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (M.F.A.T.) annual report has raised concerns about the seizing of Samoan passports when they visit American Samoa.

The M.F.A.T. Annual Report for the 2017-2018 Financial Year states that the seizing of passports belonging to Samoan passport holders in the American territory has continued unabated despite concerns being raised with American Samoa's leaders.

The passport seizures were brought to the attention of Samoa’s Consulate-General in Pago Pago, which was established in March 2006.

The annual report stated that consular services has also been extended to Samoan citizens resident on the U.S. mainland and Hawaii, who were visiting the American territory at that time. 

The concerns relating to the seizing of the passports is not new as the matter was raised during discussions at the Two Samoa talks in 2017.

The Samoa and American Samoa governments agreed in a joint statement after the conference that passports belonging to Samoan passport holders visiting the territory will no longer be seized. 

However, it is unclear when the 2017 agreement will be implemented as there continues to be reports of Samoan passports holders having their passports seized when visiting the American territory. 

According to the annual report, a few departments communicated officially in writing – in response to issues such as the illegal withholding of Samoan passports – by American Samoa Immigration officials. 

The matter has been brought to the attention of the Office of the Governor.

Emails and calls by the Samoa Observer to the Office of the Governor and his Chief of Staff over the issues raised in the annual report were not answered as of press time.

The annual report also raised concerns about accessibility for clients who are physically challenged, when they get to the second floor of the Iupeli Siliva Building, which houses the Office of the Samoa Consulate.

“After the Two Samoa Talks in Apia last December, Governor Lolo (Matalasi Moliga) directed his Chief of Staff and other concerned A.S.G. officials to allocate appropriate office spaces to our Consulate,” stated the annual report. 

“This however has not eventuated, as there are no ready-made office facilities available. The dilapidated buildings around the Government Complex in Tafuna would require substantial funding to renovate.” 

Funding of the Samoan Consulate in Pago Pago and the revenue generated were also highlighted in the annual report.

The total budget for the Samoan Consulate that financial year was US$104,314.00 ($271,216.40 tala). Total revenue collection was USD$300,143.00 ($780,371.80 tala) compared to US$234,522.00 ($609,752.20 tala) collected for the F.Y. 2016-2017 which represented an increase of US$65,621.00 ($170,614.6 tala). 

Revenue over expenditure for the reporting year totalled US$195,829.00 with the report further stating that a total of 424 new adult passports were issued that financial year. 

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