Vanuatu is open to criminals and may lose EU visa-waiver, says Opposition

Leader of Opposition Ralph Regenvanu. Photo: Twitter

The leader of Vanuatu’s Opposition, Ralph Regenvanu has slammed the Government for its cash-for-citizenship program which has already seen a former Indian national wanted in his home country, granted Vanuatuan citizenship.

Mr Regenvanu warned the Government last year about the possibility of naturalising international criminals utilising the Immigration Office Development Support Programme.

“This opens the door for international criminals and persons who have been stripped of their citizenship in other countries for nefarious activities to more easily become citizens of Vanuatu,” Mr Regenvanu said.

“Given that the cost of a single citizenship under the Development Support Program (DSP) is upwards of $US80,000, no genuine economic refugees would be able to access citizenship through this new doorway.”

Mr Regenvanu’s prior warning was prophetic in light of former Indian politician Vinay Mishra who was granted citizenship last year before named as one of the accused involved in a multimillion dollar cow smuggling racket between the Indian and Bangladeshi border three years ago.

Kolkata-born Mishra, who was the secretary of Trinamool Youth Congress from November 2018 to November 20, 2020, took the citizenship of Vanuatu on November 25, 2020. He renounced his Indian citizenship at the Indian Consulate office, Dubai, on December 19, 2020. According to officials, all his other family members, including his wife, two daughters and mother and father are now citizens of Grenada.

Vanuatu Citizen Office chairman Ronald Warsal confirmed all background checks had cleared Mishra before he was granted citizenship.

Mr Warsal told the Daily Post that these allegations surfaced only after he became a citizen of Vanuatu.

Mr Regenvanu said he could not comment on this specific issue but last year had forewarned the predicament the government faces now.

“Ronald Warsal, Chairman of the Citizenship Commission and also Vice President of the Vanuaaku Pati, has given a three-year exclusive contract to a company belonging to his close associate, Ms Thi Tam Ghoiset, to find and give up to 300 citizenships to ‘nomads, stateless people and people in difficulty’,” Mr Regenvanu said.

“Not only does this new initiative severely jeopardise Vanuatu’s national security, it also is in breach of existing procedures for granting citizenship where the applicant has to show an existing citizenship – passport and ID card – before they can be eligible for a Vanuatu citizenship.

“This announcement also will almost certainly result in the European Union cancelling its visa waiver agreement with Vanuatu, under which Vanuatu citizens have visa-free access to all 27 member countries of the EU.

He said the Opposition was extremely concerned with this new development, and is asking Prime Minister (Bob) Loughman – President of the Vanuaaku Party – to confirm publicly if this is official Government policy, “or just another of Mr Warsal’s many infamous and dubious private money-making ventures.”

The Pacific Advocate has approached the office of Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Bob Loughman for comment but at the time of publication had not received a response.

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