American Samoa request infuriates Immigration officials

Samoa Immigration officials have knocked back a request from the American Samoa Government to allow an Indian national to transit through Samoa to travel to Fiji.

Assistant Chief Immigration Officer, Valavala Siaopo Pese, said the Indian national cannot enter Samoa without proper paperwork, and he is disappointed with the request from the American Samoa Government to allow him to transit without proper documentation.

“We have received two requests so far from the American Samoa Government, asking us to allow foreigners to pass through our borders onto Fiji without proper documents,” he said, in response to questions from the Samoa Observer.

“And it is sad because immigration laws do not allow that. Once we accept a foreigner into our country, we are responsible for that person. In this case if we had accepted their requests, asked for an Indian resident to go through to Fiji, yet this person is not a Fijian citizen.”

The Indian national — at the centre of the spat between the Samoa and American Samoa Immigration authorities — flew into American Samoa from Hawaii. 

But Valavala said American Samoa Immigration authorities should not have accepted him into the American territory in the first place, if his paperwork was not in order. 

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And Fiji would have put him on the plane back to Samoa, if he was allowed to transit to Fiji through Samoa, added the Assistant Chief Immigration Officer.

“Then it would become our burden, yet this person came through to American Samoa from Honolulu, why did they accept the person in the first place? 

"And for them to say, they can come and wait for their tickets to India, it has to be clear that Samoa is not a dumping ground for foreigners. We are not a waiting place too,” he said. 

It appears American Samoa Immigration officials do not understand immigration laws, Valavala added while suggesting that the neighbouring American territory consider becoming members of the Pacific Immigration Director’s Conference. 

“Sadly they are not members. if they were, I’m certain they would understand immigration laws and how things work in the region, where the Pacific Islands (states) assist each other to ensure our borders are safe. And that is paramount in the work we do.”

Valavala then revealed to this newspaper that Samoa Immigration has denied entry to 10 foreigners on separate occasions. They included eight Asians who flew into Samoa in February this year to transit to American Samoa, but were denied entry and sent back to Fiji. 

Last week attempts by two Indian nationals to transit through Samoa to Fiji from Tonga without proper documentation was also refused, according to Valavala. 

“Same case last week, where two Indians came through from Tonga, they wanted to get into Fiji, yet they are not Fijian citizens, they are however citizens of India. And again under our laws we don’t accept people without proper paperwork. They also did not have tickets to India,” he added. 

Comments have been sought from the American Samoa Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo Ale.

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