In September 2017, Cabinet approved a proposal by MFAI to undertake a review of the 1971-72 enacted Immigration legislation with a view to making recommendations for new immigration legislation.
Proposals for the new legislation have been developed and widely consulted on over the last six months with government agencies, the House of Ariki, the Chamber of Commerce, Civil Society entities and others.
MFAI provided Cabinet an update on progress last week and the prime minister and minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, Henry Puna, said he welcomed progress, noting the review was essential to accommodate the changing economic socio-cultural landscape of the Cook Islands and supporting the country’s development aspirations.
“I understand there has been keen interest and strong engagement with the process over a number of months from all sectors of our society and government is pleased to see these substantive proposals come together” said Puna.
It is proposed that the new immigration legislation will be “framework” legislation supported by detailed regulations.
A media release from the Foreign Affairs and Immigration ministry said this approach would create certainty not currently provided by the current legislation, as well as the flexibility needed for the new legislation and regulations to be “fit for purpose” when passed and into the future.
“So far, all stakeholders support the immigration act review and have been broadly supportive of the proposals for the new legislation,” the release said.
“The proposed Legislative framework will support the prosperity of the Cook Islands, by supporting investment and business development through appropriate access to skilled and needed workers.
“It will support the safety of the Cook Islands, by helping to prevent the travel, entry and stay of non-Cook Islanders with criminal convictions or who are not of an acceptable standard of health and the security of the Cook Islands, by ensuring that there are provisions to remove or deport non-Cook Islanders who do not abide by Cook Islands law, or who are considered a threat or risk to security.”
Foreign Affairs and Immigration secretary Tepaeru Herrmann said she encouraged all Cook Islanders to engage in the consultations.
“Immigration is always topical and it is never possible to make everyone happy. However, our current economic, social, environmental and cultural realities, and the challenges we will inevitably be confronted with into the future require careful consideration by all Cook Islanders of the Immigration framework.
“The Immigration Legislation we settle on in the next couple of weeks will inevitably shape our society in the years to come.”
A first opportunity for an overview of the proposals for the new immigration legislation and regulations were presented at the Global Breakfast Update hosted by the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation at the Muri Beach Club Hotel on Tuesday, where Principal Immigration Officer Kairangi Samuela delivered a presentation. MFAI will now facilitate public consultations in Rarotonga and Aitutaki over the next month.
The release said the next month was intended to be the final round of consultations on the new immigration legislation and regulations.
“The outcome of the consultations will be reported to Cabinet for consideration, and thereafter drafting of the Immigration Legislation and regulations.”