Pacific Engagement Visa programme advances in parliament – McDonald

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The Pacific Engagement Visa programme which could pave the way for 3,000 Pacific Islanders to gain citizenship in Australia is going through parliamentary processes in Australia, says newly appointed High Commissioner to Fiji Ewen McDonald.

He spoke about the programme during an interview on The Fiji Times online news portal The Lens @177 last week.

“Yes, there certainly has been progress – so that Pacific Engagement Visa is going through our parliamentary processes at the moment, as with all democracies,” he said.

“Parliament is very important in terms of that process. So that is proceeding at the moment. And I expect will be concluded sometime this year.

“That will provide for 3,000 people from across the region to gain citizenship in Australia.

“The Government has been very committed to a process similar to New Zealand around a ballot process that provides equal opportunity for all people to be successful in getting an opportunity for citizenship and of course, us then supporting people to obtain employment as part of that.”

He said the countries would also make their own decisions on participation in the engagement visa initiative in terms of determining how many from each island nation.

However, McDonald said from Australia’s point of view, it was a good opportunity to demonstrate the importance of the region.

“This is not something that’s outside the Pacific, this engagement visa is just here in the Pacific. So yes, I’m looking forward to that being concluded and put in place.”

McDonald also said there was greater movement between countries in the region, as over 5000 of the 39,000 Pacific labour scheme workers in Australia were from Fiji.

SOURCE: FIJI TIMES/PACNEWS