22 May 2024

Fiji Immigration struggling to meet passport demand

12:07 pm on 22 May 2024
Fiji Passport

Fiji Passport Photo: Fiji Department of Immigration

Fiji Immigration is running out of blank passports "due to the ongoing increase in demand", the government says.

This is a telltale sign more Fijians are continuing to pursue plans to leave for greener pastures as the government struggles to retain its best and brightest in the country.

According to the Fiji government, around 80,000 Fijian residents departed the island for better employment opportunities and emigration between January 2018 and August 2023.

Last month, the Home Affairs Minister Pio Tikoduadua raised concerns about people "lining up from as early as 4am to lodge their passport applications".

In a statement on Tuesday, the acting permanent secretary for immigration Sainitiki Ravuso said temporary measures will be implemented from Friday to address the passport shortage issue.

Are you a Fijian citizen who has been affected by this issue? Share your stories with RNZ Pacific at: pacificnews@rnz.co.nz

These include the immigration department not taking in walk-in customers; customers only being served according to their appointment dates booked via the immigration website; and only emergency cases will being considered outside of the immigration department's appointment system.

"We are aware of the inconvenience this may cause to our citizens and residents, as we apologise for any disruption this might bring to your plans," Ravuso said.

He said the immigration office is taking the necessary steps to address the issue.

The mass labour exodus has created problems for Fiji's economy, causing skills gaps across key sectors, including health, education, hospitality and tourism, and trade among others.

The shortage of workers has resulted in some employers calling for and bringing in foreign workers from places such as Bangladesh and the Philippines to fill the labour gap.