Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Polynesian passport?

The ever worth reading monthly magazine Monocle had a brief item that caught my attention. Unfortunately, the only mention I can find of it is in this brief article from Radio New Zealand.

Creating passports for Pacific people travelling within the region is one of the aims of a group of Pacific leaders meeting in Auckland to discuss a single Government for the Polynesian Triangle.

This is a primary goal of the about 60 chiefs, or Ariki, and other leaders from Tahiti, Hawaii, Rarotonga, Tonga and Fiji who are meeting with their New Zealand counterparts.

The gathering at Whaiora Marae in Auckland is looking at how to unite Pacific people in a single indigenous Polynesian government.

A spokesperson at the event, Matt Seymor says current governance, like the issuing of passports, has taken away the natural cultural ties of Pacific people in the region.

“Settler’s law and colonialism have taken away their whakapapa. As like in New Zealand their right to come down on to Maui’s fish. As you have Samoans and Tongans who have to go through passport clearance to enter into New Zealand.”

Where can I begin?

I've blogged here before about the migration issues facing Tonga in specific and Polynesia in general, and about migration in relation to the two Samoas, and about the subject over at my blog. Partly it's a matter of migration issues in relation to islands being quite personally familiar, partly it's an issue of the sheer income gaps between sending and receiving countries, partly it's a matter of how migration regimes control matters in a Polynesia that's culturally fairly homogeneous.

Manuhuia Barcham at New Zealand's Massey University has argued in the paper "Rethinking Polynesian mobility: A new Polynesian triangle?" that migration from poor to rich countries in Polynesia (here, New Zealand, Hawai'i, and French Polynesia and perhaps Melanesian New Caledonia as well) is conditioned by patterns of migration throughout the Polynesian cultural zone as by current political ties, never mind the ways in which some Polynesian areas are tied to larger non-Polynesian ones (New Zealand to Australia, Hawai'i to the mainland United States.

Polynesian countries which retained strong links with their colonial administrators or rulers received considerable economic support from the metropoles and have had access to their labour markets. Thus American Samoans have had easy access to the mainland United States, and residents of Niue, the Cook Islands and Tokelau, Islands although governing themselves in ‘free association’ with New Zealand, can access New Zealand passports and thus the New Zealand and Australian labour markets. Samoans enjoy a special relationship with New Zealand as a former colonial power which gives them some preferential treatment migrating there and residents of French Polynesia have the rights of French citizens. The British have, in contrast, restricted access for their former colonial subjects to Britain almost

While writers such as Crocombe (1994: 311-12) acknowledge the influence of these colonial ties on movement of Polynesian peoples, they generally fail to consider the free right of access Hawai’ians have to the continental USA and that of New Zealand Māori to Australia.

After the Second World War, Barcham argues, the need for labour in the richer Polynesian territories recreated a migration culture on the islands, and eventually led to a second wave of Polynesian migration to larger labour markets (i.e. Australia and the mainland United States), later economic troubles discouraging migration while encouraging specific causes (the Mormonism which led to Tongan settlement in Utah, say). This transnationalism is dynamic, linking the different regions of Polynesia in a diasporic context that extends even beyond Polynesia proper to continental landmasses on either side of the Pacific.

In this context, a pan-Polynesian passport would be incredibly useful, especially if New Zealand was included on account of its Maori heritage: Not only would New Zealand be a desirable target, but since 1973 the integration on Australia and New Zealander labour markets has made Australia basically just another option for ambitious New Zealanders.

This passport is hugely unlikely to happen, to be sure. Would the island-states of independent Polynesian states be willing to give up so much sovereignty, especially given the relative lack of puissance of the Pacific Islands Forum? Would New Zealand be willing to join in? Would Australia tolerate New Zealand's participation in that zone? How would the United States react? Et cetera. Still, it's an interesting idea.

1 comment:

Scott said...

Very interesting, Randy. Thanks. I agree that a single passport is unlikely, but perhaps the larger countries with significant Polynesian populations could work out some sort of expedited visa system with the smaller island governments. I think that eliminating these barriers to travel for Polynesians in their historical sphere would be a very positive development.