Cook Islands Ui Ariki connect with overseas population
Cook islands chiefs meet with expats to discuss immigration concerns.
The Cook Islands house of Ariki has travelled overseas to discuss immigration issues with expats.
Up to 24 high chiefs from various islands belong to the parliamentary body and provide feedback on policy issues such as permanent residence and preserving traditions.
The Ui Ariki visitied several cities in Australia and is touring the North Island of New Zealand for the first time since its formation nearly 50 years ago.
The clerk of the House of Ariki, Puna Rakanui, told Daniela Maoate-Cox the core population of the Cook Islands live overseas and it is the ariki responsibility to represent its people regardless of where they are located.
PUNA RAKANUI: There has been a lot of ill-informed people as to the system, the procedure - particularly in regards to our children who are born either in New Zealand or Australia. You see when they're born in New Zealand or Australia, they are registered as New Zealanders or Australians and they feel that something must be done to have their children recognised as Cook islanders. yes when they come to the Cook Islands there is a system in place where upon providing evidence, proof, then their passports can be stamped to show that they are Cook Islanders. But in our view, in the view of the House of Ariki, something more concrete should be put in place.
DANIELA MAOATE-COX: Like what?
PR: These are Cook Islanders. Why should they only be stamped, why should their passports only be stamped as Cook Islanders? Yes there are means to register them as Cook Islanders, but they have to go through some really process to get themselves registered, and yet in the Cook Islands, we have foreigners working over there to our benefit. Now, when they give birth to children over there, those children are regarded as nationals, as Cook Islanders. So we do feel we need to come up with a better system to address the grievances of our people, particularly those in Australia or New Zealand.
DMC: What kind of problem does having an overseas citizenship create when you go back to the Cook Islands?
PR: They being Australians, they also have rights to the lands in the Cook Islands. See every Cook Islander, regardless... every Cook Islander who can prove their descent to the Cook Islands, has a right to access that piece of dirt in the Cook Islands, that piece of land....
DMC: Is it the same for Cook Islanders who have New Zealand citizenship going back to the Cook Islands, compared to the Australian-born?
PR: They do have difficulties, but not as much as those in Australia, because those in the Cook Islands are also New Zealanders. Now, all they need to is ensure that they have proof that they are Cook Islanders. They need their passports; they also need their birth certificates; to show that the child is either born of a Cook Islands mother or a Cook Islands father. I know that there were people who came back to the Cook Islands with those kinds of documents who still had problems. They came back over here and were not successful.
DMC: That must be a problem because one of the issues in the Cook Islands, is depopulation, so if you want people to come back and serttle in the Cook Islands, you want that process to be as easy as possible; so you're talking about dual citizenship?
PR: That's a possibility. It's a matter that the House of Ariki need to take back and dialogue with the government.
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