Monday, June 9, 2008

Fiji Loses Out on Guest Worker Program

Well placed sources have revealed that the Fiji Government's recent history of hostility towards the Australian and New Zealand Governments has denied the thousands of unemployed Fijians a chance to earn some money to feed their families by participating in a guest workers program for workers from the Pacific in Australia and NZ.

Steps such as deporting the High Commissioner of NZ, deporting the publisher of Fiji Times and more recently the death threats sent to the Australian High Commissioner and the refusal by Fiji authorities to allow Australian investigators from assisting in the investigations. Read more here

More than 38% of Fiji population live below the poverty line and with the economy in dire straits, the prospect of new jobs being created locally is very low. That only leaves Fiji Islanders the choice of seeking employment overseas. Thousands have joined the British Army while others risk their lives in countries like Kuwait and Iraq working as drivers and security guards.

A Guest Worker program has been the No.1 item on the wish list of Pacific Island leaders at the Pacific Forum since the days of Ratu Mara. Leaders of countries like PNG, Solomons, Vanuatu and indeed Fiji have asked our wealthy neighbours to let the unemployed in on temporary work visas. Till now this has been denied.

Now that the Australian Government has decided to introduce a Guest Worker program, Fiji will miss out. What a Shame. A Betrayal of the thousands of unemployed people who are struggling to make ends meet.

Under the plan workers from up to five nations - Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa, Kiribati and Tuvalu - will be involved.

But Fiji will be "black-listed" from participating in the trial - a move likely to further inflame relations between Canberra and Suva.

Known as Regional Seasonal Employment (RSE), the scheme has been successfully trialled in New Zealand, with Pacific islanders restricted to working in horticulture and viticulture. Read more here

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