Wednesday, September 09, 2009

On independent Samoa's migration issues

Earlier this year, I've blogged here about the relatively huge scale of emigration from Tonga in particular and the Pacific islands in general, while over at my blog I've written about Tonga's issues and New Zealand's quotes for immigration from the fully independent states of the South Pacific islands.

Another significant current of migration exists between the independent former German/New Zealander colony of Samoa and the considerably richer American territory of American Samoa, as Samoans from the poorer independent state assimilate relatively easy into the workforce of the more prosperous American territory. Ethnic Samoan emigration generally speaking is fairly easy: Evelyn Kellen observed in her 1982 study The Western Samoan kinship bridge, as did Deborah Gough "Mobility, Tradition and Adaptation: Samoa’s Comparative Advantage in the Global Market Place", that this modern emigration fits into a long tradition of migration. Tupuola Terry Tavita, writing in the Samoan capital of Apia, warns in the article "Closing of key American Samoa cannery opens powder-keg of problems" that the closing of a cannery in American Samoa that attracts many Samoans for work could aggravate serious social tensions in independent Samoa.

Since the Second World War – and especially since the 1950s with the opening of the canneries in Pago Pago - thousands from this side of the Aleipata Strait have emigrated to the Territory. The majority from the rural areas.

Hundreds have gained permanent residence status since, hundreds more have gone over on short-term permits. Many have overstayed.

Though figures are sketchy, it is safe to assume that a sizeable portion of the 60,000 or so residents in the Territory comprise of those originally from here and their offspring, many of whom are now American Samoa nationals.

Like emigration to New Zealand, American Samoa and its canneries has served not only as a population control outlet for Samoa but also as an employment safety valve.

It has worked to our favour.

At the price of losing our ablest people, the trade-off is the millions in remittances sent over to prop up families, communities and of course, the churches in Samoa. Remittances, by the way, can also be argued to be a double-edged sword.

As many queue up at the transfer centers to receive their monthly remittance staple, the incentive to cultivate the land has become less pressing. For many families, remittances have become their main source of income.

Also, successive governments have never really had to deal with the pressing issue of finding employment for the thousands of school leavers we churn out each year.

As long as the doorway to New Zealand is relatively accessible and as long as the canneries in Pago Pago remained open and pursuing cheap labour, we could postpone the honest solving of a basic problem, in its full brunt.

And the safety valve can also be argued to be a political one.

As rural-to-urban population drift continues, he wonders, will the growing unemployed start to ask why aren't there jobs in their homeland?

1 comment:

busycorner said...

The immigration statutes of American Samoa require each alien worker to have a local immigration sponser; a person of American Samoan or American ancestry and citizenship. Corporations may also sponsor their employees as is the case of many cannery workers.

The law requires sponsors to assume fiduciary responsibility of the alien employees in several instances such as illness or legal issues both civil and criminal.

Sponsor responsibilities include repatriation costs to an alien's home country in the event of job loss or other condition of sponsorship.

Alien employees have traditional supported their sponsors financially during family matters. Without incomes, the immigration issue will be compounded based on traditional back and forth between sponsors and the alien employees.

From Pago