Statement from the Pacific Immigration Development Community Chair on a Regional Approach to Immigration for COVID-19
Tuesday, 31 Aug 2021
- As Chair of the Pacific Immigration Development Community, Tuvalu notes with concern the various negative impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic has had both globally and in our Pacific region not only from a health perspective but also as a major disruptor of our normal way of life. In disrupting pathways for travel, the virus has left many of our citizens stranded away from their homes in both the long and short term. This Statement from the PIDC Chair underscores the role PIDC Nations, as custodians of the Blue Pacific Continent, can play in addressing the immigration issues our nationals face abroad by adopting a region-oriented approach where we take responsibility for the entire Pacific region in the same way we take responsibility for our own nations.
- As a region, we see the cross-cutting impacts of COVID-19 on all aspects of life in the Pacific for both nations where there have been COVID-19 infections and those free of the virus. We mourn the various losses that have resulted from COVID-19, especially all losses of life, whether within our region or globally. We further recognize the toll COVID-19 has taken both economically and socially.
- While COVID-19 has separated us physically from each other, at the same time, it has brought us closer together as a region from a moral and ethical perspective as we have worked together at the highest levels of Government to promote the well-being of Pacific peoples and places. Initiatives like the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19 (PHP-C) have shown that the Pacific stands in solidarity against the virus despite the national lockdowns and international travel restrictions that have kept us from each other. This reminds us of the key common cultural principles underlying the Pacific Way—principles like Tuvaluan ideas of fale-pili and kaitasi and other related Pacific concepts, where we all have a responsibility to care for, share with, and protect our neighbours.
- As PIDC Chair, however, Tuvalu notes that there is more that can be done to promote a Pacific regional response to COVID-19. Early in the pandemic, Pacific Island countries agreed to cooperate closely to guarantee the safety and wellbeing of Pacific Island nationals in the region and in foreign countries during this time of crisis. Many nations worked in the spirit of this commitment with Nauru, as one example, uplifting Pacific Island nationals, including those from Kiribati, Tuvalu, and the Solomon Islands, from the Oceania Weightlifting Institute in Noumea in 2020.
- Immigration has been one area where we have, during the pandemic, demonstrated our regional togetherness and common cultural outlook on shared responsibility. We have, where possible, sought to care for and protect those who have been stranded in our nations due to travel restrictions, especially if they are part of our Pacific family, and return them to their homes.
- However, given extended international travel restrictions and social distancing measures that have been reintroduced as new outbreaks of COVID-19 have emerged in our region, Tuvalu, as PIDC Chair, notes that we should look to renew our efforts to take the same responsibility for those stranded within our borders that we would for our own people. Where possible and practicable, Tuvalu proposes that PIDC Nations must work at all levels to ensure that, while the sovereign rights of our individual nations are always respected, our regional immigration and visa processes recognize our familial ties and the need to show due care and concern for our Pacific neighbours during these unprecedented times.
- As PIDC Chair, Tuvalu believes that this region-oriented approach to immigration and COVID-19 need not be wholly legal or political in nature. As a Blue Pacific People, PIDC Nations can create an enabling environment, where those stranded due to the pandemic, and in a compromised position from an immigration standpoint, are encouraged to come forward to seek assistance, and Governments on all sides extend a helping hand as best as they are legally able. This requires both high-level communication between Governments and awareness of the importance of caring for all parties—both foreign and domestic—to ensuring communal well-being and consensus-driven societies.
- In the Pacific region, we are uniquely placed to extend this care and concern for others throughout our communities. We hold values founded on a culture of relationship-building that drives our commitment to address the complex immigration and visa issues brought about by COVID-19 in the Pacific by engaging with partners at all levels on an equal footing. With reference to and respect for our various sovereign arrangements, we strive to promote the regional good by always attempting to ensure the safety of other Pacific Island nationals.
- The COVID-19 crisis has shown us the importance of responses to pandemic and disaster that are both regionally and culturally applicable. This should also underline our approach to immigration in the COVID-19 era. We respect sovereign rights while also calling for interconnected action in recognition of the Pacific as a deeply interdependent family of nations.
- As PIDC Chair, Tuvalu strongly recognizes the manner in which the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are exacerbated by the interconnectedness of our global community. However, we simultaneously recognize how the interconnected and interdependent nature of the Pacific region can act as a salve in this time of crisis and how our Pacific values of mutual responsibility to care for our neighbours can protect our nationals both at home and abroad in this time of need. To keep all of our peoples safe, we must ensure a regional response to immigration in COVID-19 that highlights our connections as a Pacific family and a Blue Pacific Continent.