23 Jul 2004

Fiji church leader wants visa rules to be challenged

1:40 pm on 23 July 2004

A prominent church leader in Fiji has called on Pacific governments to stand up to what he says are the discriminatory visa policies of the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

Father Mikaele Pauga, the dean of the Pacific Regional Seminary in Suva, says they should consider applying the same tough rules to visitors from those countries that they apply to Pacific Islanders.

"The Americans and the Australians and the New Zealanders and the Europeans can freely come to the Pacific at any time when they wish to do so, and this has to be questioned, especially in this day and age when there is so much problem with terrorism and drug trafficking. All of these things never originated in the Pacific."

Father Pauga says staff at the United States Embassy in Suva are rude, asking pacific islanders embarrassing questions in front of other people.

It also forces people from as far away as Tonga to spend what little money they have to Suva for a visa interview and queue outside in the rain, with no guarantee of a visa.