Falepili Union: ‘Australia is providing a type of citizenship to Tuvaluans’ – academic

An academic says the migration aspects of the Falepili Union between Tuvalu and Australia are a very good deal for Tuvaluans.

The Australian National University’s Development Policy Centre executive director, Stephen Howes, said more recently released details on the treaty give Tuvaluan immigrants to Australia advantages not available to others.

The Falepili Union allows for special visas for 280 Tuvaluans each year and is part of a comprehensive agreement that includes significant security access for Australia within Tuvalu’s borders.

Professor Howes said two features in the migration deal stand out.

“Normally, Australia’s migration regime is quite discriminatory. That’s true for every country and normally you can’t migrate if you’re above a certain age or if you are disabled.

“But neither of those restrictions apply to this visa, there’s no maximum age requirement, and there are no disability bars,” he said.

The second thing that stood out concerns the permanent residency visa, he said.

Stephen Howes.

While such a visa would allow people to live indefinitely in Australia, they do not usually include the right of return if the person left the country.

“After five years, certain requirements have to be satisfied in order to be able to return under a permanent residency visa, but that’s just been waived altogether for this visa. So, it will last indefinitely, you’ll be able to leave for as long as you want, and then come back at any point in time.”

Citizenship can eventually be sought but Howes said this visa is “quite close to citizenship”.

“Obviously, you won’t be able to vote if you enter under this visa, or you won’t be able to work for the Australian government.

“But that right to be able to return to Australia at any time, that is really the right of a citizen and so in a way Australia is providing a type of citizenship to Tuvaluans.”

The academic said he sees this as a good thing because otherwise there was a risk that Tuvaluans would have applied in order to come to Australia for enough time to get citizenship so that they would then be able to return at any point.

“The way it’s been set up, it is sort of like an option. It’ll be very popular, I think everyone will want one of these visas. But not everyone will come to Australia immediately, people will be able to use it as an option and perhaps apply for it now in order to be able to use it later.”

He said it is not a passport but very close to it.

Australia has a very small Tuvaluan population at the moment but Howes said these numbers will ramp up quite quickly.

It is the influence of China on the Pacific that has pushed Australia to embrace Tuvalu in this way, and the security elements of the Falepili Union are key.

Article 4: Cooperation for security and stability

  • 1. Australia shall, in accordance with its international law obligations, international commitments, domestic processes and capacity, and following a request from Tuvalu, provide assistance to Tuvalu in response to: a) a major natural disaster; b) a public health emergency of international concern; c) military aggression against Tuvalu.
  • 2. The Parties shall enter into an instrument to set out the conditions and timeframes applicable to Australian personnel operating in Tuvalu’s territory.
  • 3. In addition to the Parties’ rights and freedoms under international law, provided that advance notice is given by Australia, Tuvalu shall provide Australia rights to access, presence within, and overflight of Tuvalu’s territory, if the activities are necessary for the provision of assistance requested by Tuvalu under this agreement.
  • 4. Tuvalu shall mutually agree with Australia any partnership, arrangement or engagement with any other State or entity on security and defence-related matters. Such matters include but are not limited to defence, policing, border protection, cyber security and critical infrastructure, including ports, telecommunications and energy infrastructure.

Since this union first emerged late last year there have been concerns that these security aspects compromised Tuvalu’s sovereignty.

Professor Howes said the security provisions are clearly targeted at China.

For instance, he said Tuvalu would need to get Australia’s permission if it wanted to enter into a relationship with China, for example, to get some aid from China that could, under some interpretation, have security implications.

“Tuvalu doesn’t even recognise the People’s Republic of China and has diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Given that nothing’s really going to change, I think it will make it probably more difficult for Tuvalu to swap sides, as it were, but under the current arrangements, there’s no real actual cost Tuvalu because it doesn’t even recognise China.”

He said there is a remote possibility of Australia coming to similar terms with other countries facing threats from climate change, but countries such as Nauru and Kiribati have both recently change allegiances to Beijing from Taiwan, so that would be problematic.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

Related News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button