7 Jun 2002

Fiji home affairs minister refutes bans and removal orders

6:22 am on 7 June 2002

Fiji's minister for home affairs, Joketani Cokanasiga, is refuting reports that he ordered a ban on the entry of Australian trade unionists into the country.

Mr Cokanasiga, who is also the minister for immigrantion, has told Radio Fiji he gave no such instructions.

The Transport Workers Union president, Hughie Williams, has described the reported ban as political interference in the immigration system and blatant discrimination which would not be tolerated.

Mr Williams said the visa ban was shortsighted retaliation against Australian unionists for supporting Fiji unions in their fight against the unconstitutional and illegal actions of the Fiji government.

But Mr Cokanasiga says he wants to apologise to the union if they have been given information which he says is not true.

Mr Cokanasiga also says he did not order the removal last Friday of two representatives from Healthlink New Zealand who were in Suva to recruit nurses for jobs in the United Arab Emirates.

Two immigration officers ordered the recruiters to leave within 12 hours.

Media reports in Fiji say the ban on the unionists and the order to the New Zealanders to leave may have been instigated by a minister other than Mr Cokanasiga.