20 January 2009

Fijian leader seeking Australian visa for PNG meeting

Ahead of Papua New Guinea's special meeting for Pacific leaders, the Fijian military coup leader and interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has announced in a statement that he would not be attending so that he may remain in Fiji during the flood crisis, reports Australia Network News.

However, there have been reports that the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) were considering Commodore Bainimarama's Australian visa application for transit through the country.

According to current Australian regulations, any Fijians who are in or related to anyone in the Fijian military (who lead a coup against the ruling Fijian government in 2006) will have any applications for an Australian visa denied. 

The Australian Network News says DIAC was considering Commodore Bainimarama's and his entourage's Australian visa applications so that they could travel to the Pacific leaders' forum in PNG via Australia.

Senator Helen Coonan, the opposition foreign affairs spokesperson, said the government should not waiver the visa sanction.

"I think that the sanctions should be upheld irrespective of who they apply to, whether it be Mr Bainimarama or whether it should be a young footballer who has been refused a visa," she said.

This month, DIAC also refused an Australian visa for a Fijian teenager.

Inoke Ratu, 19, has had his Australian visa denied after applying to move to Australia to play in the Australian Football League (AFL) because his father is in the Fijian military. 

The Western Bulldogs recruited Ratu and another player from Fiji last year, but the Australian immigration department put his travel plans to train in Australia on hold.

"I'm bit disappointed," Ratu told Fijilive Sports.

"AFL was my target.  My aim this year has been turned down because of my visa application," he said.

DIAC have not commented on the Fijian's visa application, but its rejection of the visa application is in line with current travel restrictions imposed by the Australian government.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with emigrating to Australia.

Article by Jessica Bird, Australian Visa Bureau.

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