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Come on Aus & NZ – How about some equality!

Solomon Islanders can travel to 99 countries without having to apply for a visa and this list contains countries like France, Finland and even Netherlands.

But its closest neighbours Australia and New Zealand still require people from the Solomon Islands to apply for a visa.

Once again, the Solomon Islands have tried to persuade Australia and New Zealand to reciprocate the visa arrangement their citizens enjoy with the island nation.

Solomon Islands Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Jeremiah Manele recently called on Australia and New Zealand to consider providing a reciprocal visa waiver for Solomon Islands passport holders.

Mr Manele met Minister of Foreign Affairs of New Zealand, Nanaia Mahuta and the Australian Minister for International Development and Pacific, Pat Conroy at the margins of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings in Kigali, Rwanda recently.

Solomon Islands Foreign Affairs Minister Jeremiah Manele at the CHOGM 2022. Picture: CHOGM

The call for a reciprocal visa waiver is not new. Solomon Islands through previous governments made the call but there was no positive response or consideration.

The Solomon Islands has reciprocal waiver visa arrangements with other countries and recently with India.

Currently, Australian and New Zealand passport holders enjoy a visa on arrival for tourist and business purposes when travelling to Solomon Islands.

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In contrast, Solomon Islanders must apply for a visa with big fees. The visa application process is lengthy with no guarantee a visa will be granted.

“As a Pacific family, we care for each other and we look after each other in times of need so it would be most grateful if our two neighbors consider granting reciprocal visa waiver for us,”  Mr Manele said.

Both Australia and New Zealand have said they have taken note of the call and assured Mr Manele that they will further look into the request.

If this were to happen, then Solomon Islands would have achieved a milestone.

Solomon Islanders can travel to 99 countries without having to apply for a visa and this list contains countries like France, Finland and even Netherlands. But its closest neighbours Australia and New Zealand still require people from the Solomon Islands to apply for a visa. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

But the chances of this happening are very low. In such cases, travellers from the Pacific are seen as high risk people who might not return to their homelands.

Australians and New Zealanders have enjoyed visa free travel into the Pacific for many years because they make the highest tourist numbers to Pacific nations.

On the contrary, Pacific islanders have been infamous for visa violations such as overstaying. In a recent case highlighted by the Pacific Advocate, Vanuatu nationals who went on a seasonal worker scheme in Australia are applying for asylum status without having any conflicts in their home nations.

Even transit visas have to be applied for. Not even Pacific islanders travelling through New Zealand to Cook Islands are exempted.

But with a new approach to the Pacific, things could change.

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