M.P. casts doubt on foreign marriages
Member of Parliament for Fa'asaleleaga No. 2, Namulau’ulu Sami Leota, has called for better monitoring and inspection processes to ensure foreigners seeking to marry Samoans are “genuine”.
Namulau’ulu outlined his concerns about foreign marriage in a pre-session Parliamentary report, during the discussion of an immigration bill introduced to Parliament last week. The proposed bill would repeal the Immigration Act to bring the legislation up to date with international standards with the aim of boosting border protection.
During the pre-session hearings on the proposed legislative changes, the head of the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and Head of the Immigration Office, Agafili Shem Leo, explained that the current immigration law was out of date.
But Namulauulu queried whether immigration officials had any monitoring or inspection processes in place to ensure that people approved for work visas were, in fact, working.
“In the case of inter-marriages, [we should seek to] determine whether the marriage is genuine, rather than the foreigner seeking rights and benefits afforded to [the] citizens of Samoa.”
In response, Agafili’s report referenced the Ministry’s One-Stop Shop Policy, which involves the Ministry engaging in complete background checks on those applying for a visa, as well as monitoring for those who have been granted citizenship after marrying a citizen.
In case the marriage is found not to be genuine Immigration Services have the authority to revoke a person’s citizenship and return them back to their country of origin.
According to the report, another M.P., Faumuina Tiatia Liuga, raised concern about the possibility of dual citizenship allowing people to bypass immigration controls.
“This is specifically when dealing with those that have multiple passports; in circumstances when the person is required by the Court to submit [their] travelling documents and submit only their Samoan passport and hold onto their [others],” the representative said.
The report says Agafili explained that all conditions will be thoroughly set out in the Regulations, including due diligence requirements for any individual applying for a visa.
“The Departure Prohibition Order is primarily dealt with by the courts; the Immigration Services is at the end of the process and is highly dependent on the courts for their decision before relevant steps are taken by the immigration services,” the report said.
“Regardless of a person having multiple passports, the court has the authority to confiscate and hold all travelling documents.”
The Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti, raised the need to consider other specialised skills brought into Samoa because it had been noted that the most common skill or business which Chinese immigrants venture into include working in retail outlets.
Sili suggested that the Immigration Services should consider the need to attract other specialised skills such as construction workers, doctors, and information technology specialists.
Agafili acknowledged the concern, which he said was a “whole of Government” issue, requiring broader review.