Seasonal workers from Vanuatu have been absconding and seeking asylum in Australia.
The Vanuatu government had to make a trip to Australia and found out that the majority who absconded had been subjected to exploitation.
An appeal has been made by the Vanuatu government for absconders to return as employment with new farmers has been sought.
The bigger concern from the Vanuatu government is that such behaviour could result in the program being affected.
The Seasonal Worker Programs and the Pacific Labour Schemes provide Pacific nations with a very good source of remittance.
During the lockdowns, it has helped Pacific nations through tough economic times.
According to the Vanuatu government, seeking asylum could in most cases result in people being sent back to the nation and losing out on the opportunity to be part of the program.
The Vanuatu government sees no reason why workers have been applying for protection visas or asylum.
Vanuatu’s Commissioner of Labour, Murielle Meltenoven has told the Vanuatu Daily Post they had appealed to the absconders to return to the program.
“The message that myself and the Vanuatu High Commission in Canberra, Australia, are giving for our workers is for them to return to the program, so that we can support them with their long-term participation in the program,” she is reported as saying.
“There are consequences of applying for a protection visa that they do not know…If investigation reveals their reasons for protection visa not true then it can backfire on their long-term participation in the program.
“My word of advice is for them to return to the program. They should call the office of Vanuatu High Commission in Canberra or reach out to the Department of Labour to support them on their re-engagement to the program.”
Vanuatu has realised that some of their workers are genuinely exploited. The Vanuatu government is hoping to have fresh talks with the Australian government and review the current Memorandum of Understanding and cultural framework of the program.