SAMOA (Commonwealth Union)_Samoa’s Acting Prime Minister is concerned that Australia’s offer of up to 3000 visas for Pacific migrants may further deplete Samoa’s already overstressed labour workforce.
It comes as the government investigates how a group of workers managed to travel to New Zealand for seasonal work despite the temporary suspension of the regional seasonal employer system.
Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio told Apia’s Parliament that the Australian government announced additional visas without contacting the Samoan government.
He claimed that this would harm the Samoan labour force and result in the permanent relocation of more skilled employees and their families to Australia.
The 3000 visas would be distributed each year through a ballot mechanism in Pacific countries and Timor Leste.
Those chosen in the ballot will be invited to apply for permanent residence, and the new Pacific Engagement visa (PEV) will be introduced in July to increase permanent Pacific migration to Australia.
“There has been no contact with our government about this. They will first take our employees for three years, and I believe they will not return “Tuala stated.
He stated that they would accept people from the tourist and hospitality industries, as well as teachers and police officials.
Tuala stated that Cabinet must remain tough and guarantee that it is adequately equipped to cope with any fallout.
The programme is expected to benefit member nations through greater remittances, possibilities for skill and knowledge transfer, the creation of a new migration corridor, and strengthened people-to-people ties.
According to discussions, the PEV will be modelled after New Zealand’s Pacific Access Category (PAC) Resident visa, which has been available since 2002.
The Samoan government is investigating how a group of Samoans managed to travel to New Zealand for seasonal work despite a temporary ban on the regional seasonal employer system.
The Samoa Observer discovered documents, including flight schedules, indicating that there was travel to New Zealand.
The itinerary shows that 18 seasonal employees left the country on January 15th, when the plan was suspended.
Samoa’s Cabinet has temporarily halted the deployment of seasonal workers for this month, pending the completion of a policy concentrating on application vetting.
According to one of the employees, a top official with the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Labour was processing their paperwork and travel documents but is no longer returning their calls.
Attempts by the newspaper to obtain comment from the Ministry were futile.