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By Malia Sio

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Dec. 15) – Some 72 Samoans have landed jobs working in New Zealand prisons, it was confirmed yesterday.

They are amongst those selected this year under Samoa's New Zealand immigration quota.

It comes after taking part in seminars and interviews conducted by the New Zealand Department of Corrections.

The 72 will take up their jobs next year after three months of intensive training in Wellington.

Deputy Prime Minister Misa Telefoni congratulated all the recipients during a lunch held in their honor at the Hotel Kitano Tusitala, Sogi.

Misa thanked the New Zealand Government and its Department of Corrections for its initiative to make available these opportunities for Samoans under the quota system.

He also urged all the recipients to fulfill their new roles with honesty, professionalism and diligence.

"Your good work will open the door for many other Samoans," he said.

He also touched upon recent criticism of this Corrections initiative by some anti-immigration Opposition parliamentarians in New Zealand. He said this is all the more reason for the 72 to fulfill their roles properly.

"There are some things that Samoans do better them most people, and I believe that you all will make perfect Corrections Officers," he said.

The front man of the initiative from the New Zealand Department of Corrections, Lautafi Selafi Purcell, echoed Misa's comments.

He also congratulated all the successful applicants whose number was beyond his expectations. He welcomed them to joining him in a career he chose 20 years ago.

A total of 400 people applied for positions. After interviews 118 were short listed and 72 made the final cut.

The 72 new corrections officers will serve in Auckland, Wanganui, Waikato, Wellington and Christchurch.

As part of New Zealand efforts to ensure the Samoan quota is filled, other employers have also been recruiting here in conjunction with the New Zealand Immigration Service.

They have included Roadworks New Zealand and the big bus operator Stagecoach.

The New Zealand Government this year announced a series of measures its Immigration Service will take to enable Samoa's immigration quota to be filled. It follows complaints the quota is not being filled because of requirements New Zealand imposed.

There were also claims New Zealand was not adhering to the spirit of its Treaty of Friendship with Samoa.Immigration Minister Paul Swain said in a statement issued in Wellington that the changes include: - Speeding up verification of job offers to, in most cases, within 14 days of receipt of required information from prospective employers, - Quota places are now released throughout the year rather than during just one month, - Applications are now accepted from citizens already lawfully in New Zealand.

Both the income of the principal applicant and the income of the spouse/partner are counted in meeting the minimum income requirement, - The minimum income level requirement has been lowered from NZ$31,566 to $25,585 per annum, - The creation of relationship managers to focus on identifying and establishing employment opportunities for prospective quota migrants.

Mr Swain said further investigation will be made into the development of private sector partnerships, to assist suitable migrants into employment.

The remaining places from the unfilled 2002/03 and 2003/04 quotas will be retained and made available over the course of the next three quota years, commencing with the 2004/05 year.

Settlement information for Samoan migrants will also be provided, and will be more appropriately targeted to Samoan migrants' needs.

Similar changes have also been announced for New Zealand's immigration quota for other Pacific Islands, Mr Swain said.

Mr Swain said these initiatives are necessary because places being taken up under the Samoan and Pacific quotas have been falling well short of what is available. Each year there are 1100 places under the Samoan quota and 650 under the Pacific Access Category (PAC), which includes Tonga, Fiji, Tuvalu and Kiribati. People applying under the quota need to have a job offer in New Zealand and meet minimum health, English language and character requirements. The Samoan quota has been running for more than 30 years and reflects the Treaty of Friendship signed by the two countries in 1962. The Pacific Access Category quota was set up in 2001.

Mr Swain said the improvements to the quota system would not only benefit Pacific nations but would also help New Zealand at a time of low unemployment. Associate Minister of Pacific Island Affairs Taito Phillip Field said the changes followed consultation between government ministers and Pacific Island community leaders in New Zealand and the Pacific."The changes are an effort to resolve problems with filling the annual quotas and in Samoa's case, acknowledging New Zealand's obligations under our protocol agreement and Treaty of Friendship," he said.

December 21, 2004

Samoa Observer: www.samoaobserver.ws/

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