The Green Party is calling on the Government to let people visit Aotearoa from the Pacific Islands without a visa.
“Pacific peoples should be able to travel to Aotearoa to visit their family regardless of their income and without having to jump through colonial hoops to spend time with each other,” says Green Party Pacific People spokesman Teanau Tuiono.
It was reported this week that half of visitor visa applications rejected by Immigration NZ are from people travelling to Aotearoa from the Pacific.
Tuiono says Immigration NZ’s decisions are based on an idea that “Pacific people might want to stay in Aotearoa long-term – often because of an outdated and, frankly, racist assumption they are poor, or unemployed”.
“It would seem the Dawn Raid-era perception of Pacific peoples as overstayers is alive and well in our visa rules. These colonial-era rules mean freedom of movement remains a privilege of the wealthy, while hundreds of Pacific people are prevented from seeing their families.”
Immigration Minister Michael Wood has responded, saying he has " not seen any evidence of bias”.
“If I saw evidence of any bias, any discrimination, any different treatment, any different standard, then that would be entirely inappropriate.”
Tuiono says last year’s Hunga Tonga–Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption in Tonga exposed gaping issues in Aotearoa’s visa process.
Hunga Tonga–Hunga Ha’apai’s eruption and following tsunami left parts of Tonga destroyed or uninhabitable, leaving about 2500 Tongan people in Aotearoa displaced as their homes were wiped out.
“If this Government genuinely believes what it says when it talks about Aotearoa New Zealand as part of a family of Pacific nations, then it needs to update visa rules immediately to better reflect Pacific values,” says Tuiono.
He says he called on the Government to improve visitor access from the Pacific in June.
“With new data now suggesting that Pacific people are disproportionately prevented from visiting Aotearoa, we call on the Government to immediately grant visa-waiver status to all Pacific countries.”