12 Aug 2020

Vanuatu govt says it sells citizenship, not passports

1:49 pm on 12 August 2020

Vanuatu's Director of Passport and Immigration has denied European reports the government is selling passports to foreigners who want to escape Covid-19.

Vanuatu's Director of Passport and Immigration, Jeffrey Markson

Vanuatu's Director of Passport and Immigration, Jeffrey Markson Photo: RNZ Pacific / Hilaire Bule

Jeffrey Markson's comments followed a report on French television that Vanuatu was selling passports for 130,000 euros.

The director claimed the report was false and said people couldn't buy their way to Vanuatu to try and flee Covid-19.

"Vanuatu is one of the countries that is Covid-free. To come to vanuatu we have all our border measures in place and there are strict border measures that we have in place and there is no such requirement that you can buy a passport to come to Vanuatu."

However Markson conceded the government did run a revenue programme which had been approved in Parliament.

"We have this citizenship programme that is currently going on that is bringing in revenue and people who wish to apply for our citizenship, they have to vie for that citizenship and then one of the benefits of the citizenship is the passport.

"But to get the passport you have to follow the dual processes in place."

The Director said to there was a separate process to obtain a citizenship certificate and then another one for applying for a passport after that.

He reassured the public that the government continued to do all it could to keep Vanuatu free of the coronavirus included monitoring the borders and limited flight arrivals.

In May Prime Minister Bob Loughman ordered a review into the controversial scheme which was said to account for a third of government's revenue.