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Ten caught in dual-passport travel crackdown

Ten Samoans will be fined $2000 each for travelling to and from New Zealand during the state of emergency, the National Emergency Operations Centre (N.E.O.C.) has said.

In a press conference on Monday, Interim N.E.O.C. Chair, Agafili Shem Leo, confirmed ten dual-passport holders will be fined, having arrived on the last repatriation flight that landed on Friday 13 November.

Agafili said Samoa’s immigration system can easily spot travellers doing this. The new penalties were introduced in early September.

With the country attempting to manage the number of people in quarantine at any one time, and a long queue of Samoans abroad trying to get home not getting shorter, the Government wants to limit unnecessary travel.

“We need to work together and give the opportunity to family members who truly need to come back home,” he urged.

When the penalties were introduced, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi said the $2000 fine was meant to crack down on “tricksters” who travel to New Zealand on their kiwi passport and return on their Samoan one.

“The Government is paying for the expenses twice when they come for holiday and going back. Those tricksters are being warned that there is a substantive fine to penalise them and they will remain here until whatever year the borders are opened," he said at the time. 

The Government of Samoa currently pays for the bulk of the quarantine costs for repatriated citizens, with the exception of one meal a day (usually dinner) at the quarantine sites. Passengers pay for their own airfares.

There are three more confirmed repatriation flights before the end of the year, with the N.E.O.C. considering one more from Fiji.

On Friday 27 November a flight from Los Angeles will repatriate people from the United States, students from China and Europe, medical treatment patients returning from India, and missionaries from the Philippines and Hawai’i.

Then two more flights, both from New Zealand, will arrive on Friday 04 and Monday 07 December.

The Director-General of Health Leausa Dr. Take Naseri said extra precautions at Faleolo International Airport have been added for citizens returning from anywhere outside of New Zealand.

Last Friday when 18 sailors and two students returned from beyond New Zealand, they were screened in a separate room at the airport and released to their quarantine site after passing a health check.

He did not say whether they are also seated separately on the flight.

New Zealand too is cracking down on short-term travellers, by imposing NZ$3,100 quarantine fees on anyone who wants to leave or enter New Zealand and return again within three months.

The managed isolation charges began in August.

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