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MELBOURNE, Australia (Nov. 5, 2002 – Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat)---A petition to allow Samoans the right to New Zealand citizenship has attracted 30,000 signatures from Samoans in New Zealand.

Former New Zealand member of parliament, Arthur Anae, says the claim rests on the fact that in 1982, the Privy Council in London ruled that all Samoans born in Samoa between 1924 and 1948 and their heirs were entitled to New Zealand citizenship.

The New Zealand government subsequently reached an agreement with the Samoan government that they say annuls that decision. But Anae disputes that.

"Samoans, at that particular time, it was stated, were in the same category as Cook Islanders, Tokelauns and the Niueans. They were all New Zealanders, initially under a British protectorate," Anae said. When the protectorate was passed over to New Zealand, they became New Zealand citizens.

"What we are looking for, more than anything else, is the freedom of access. People have to understand that Samoans don't necessarily want to come and live in New Zealand. They want freedom of access to come, to work and to go home when they want to."

Anae said the privilege would not be reciprocated to New Zealanders going to Samoa.

"We've got 30,000 plus signatures in New Zealand. We're planning to travel to Samoa in the next couple of weeks to sign up people," he said.

in Samoa. We've had a lot of people telling us they've signed documents in Samoa so we actually want to pick up those papers as well."

Anae said the government was warned that a human rights issue could result because it had denied its citizens the right to live in New Zealand.

"The British Nationality Act, which gave the Samoans this special privilege, was repealed in 1977. There were a number of Samoans here before that date who were deported, who were hunted down by dogs at dawn raids… and because they actually overstayed the four year requirement on their permanent residency had not been able to come to New Zealand."

Western Samoa was the first country to be granted independence in 1962. Neither the Samoan government nor the New Zealand government has shown much interest in the issue raised by Anae.

"Now there's a lot of fear from both political parties in the past and present still that 170,000 Samoans are going to invade New Zealand overnight. What we're looking for here is that the Samoan people want access to and from New Zealand.

"And as we've seen in the growth in Samoa in the last few years there's a huge number of New-Zealand born Samoans who're going back to Samoa and taking up residency there."

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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