Leader of Opposition Ralph Regenvanu has written to the Chairman of the Citizenship Commission, Ronald Warsal, requesting information on persons granted citizenship by naturalisation since he took over the reins of the Commission as Chairman.
“Last week i issued a statement to the media alleging the Constitutional requirement of a minimum of 10 years continuous residence in Vanuatu as a precondition of becoming a naturalised citizen is currently being breached,” he stated.
“As you know, granting citizenship by naturalisation to persons who have not met the requirement for citizenship by naturalisation is not only a breach of the law but also a breach of the Constitution.
“The Prime Minister responded to my statement in the media by saying that if the Opposition wants to scrutinize the Government’s performance, rather than making accusations to the media, they should check the facts with Vanuatu Citizenship Commission that is responsible for administering the law and get the Commission to answer their queries.
“Accordingly, I am requesting that your office provide me with a list of all persons who have been granted citizenship by naturalisation since the 20th of April this year, along with all documents provided in support of their application.”
The letter was also copied to Prime Minister Bob Loughman and the Secretary General of the Citizenship Commission.
Speaking to the Daily Post yesterday afternoon Mr Warsal said he has yet to receive the letter but he assured the Citizenship Commission will respond to the request as it is a public office.
Earlier on Monday this week the Opposition issued a statement accusing Chairman Warsal who is also Vice President of Vanua’aku Pati of opening the door for international criminals to become citizensafter givinga 3-year exclusive contract to a company belonging to Mrs Thi Tam Goiset, to find and give up to 300 citizenships to “nomads, stateless people and people in difficulty”.
“This opens the door for international criminals and persons who have been stripped of their citizenship in other countries for nefarious activities to more easily become citizens of Vanuatu,” the Opposition stated.
“Given that the cost of a single citizenship under the Development Support Program (DSP) is upwards of USD$80,000, no genuine economic refugees would be able to access citizenships through this new doorway.
“Not only does this new initiative severely jeopardise Vanuatu’s national security, it also is in breach of existing procedures for granting citizenship where the applicant has to show an existing citizenship – passport and ID card – before they can be eligible for a Vanuatu citizenship.
“This announcement also will almost certainly result in the European Union cancelling its visa waiver agreement with Vanuatu, under which Vanuatu citizens have visa-free access to all 27-member countries of the EU.
“The EU has previously raised its concern with Vanuatu that persons whom it considers undesirable will be able to circumvent European Union visa requirements by acquiring Vanuatu citizenship through our citizenship programs and then benefiting from Vanuatu’s visa waiver agreement.”
After the criticisms by the Leader of Opposition against Chairman Warsal for allegedly signing an agreement with a company owned by Mrs Goiset as sole operator in an area in the Citizenship programme, the Chairman came out to set the record straight with Chairman of the Commission Mr Samuel Garae.
Chairman Warsal said the Citizenship Commission has two roles under the Citizenship law.
One is to award citizenships to applicants the have met the criteria to receive one and the other is to manage the citizenship by investment programmes.
Warsal said sometimes agents under the citizenship programmes write to the Commission with proposals.
He said it is the DSP programme that are issued to Vanuatu citizens but the ESP is run by overseas agent.
These restricted countries are Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
He said the approval given to Goiset is part of the programme and checks are conducted by the Financial Intelligence Unit.
Mr Samuel says all funds coming through for the programme are through an account at the National Bank of Vanuatu.
Chairman Warsal said he is not aware of any breach on the eligibility requirement of getting a citizenship by naturalisation as the Opposition has claimed.
“Under the law, a person married to a Ni-Vanuatu citizen is also eligible if he/she lives in Vanuatu for a period of at least two years,” he said.
“This means that a person who does not reside continuously in Vanuatu for 10 years but is married to a Ni-Vanuatu citizen and has stayed in the country for at least two years can still be granted citizenship if he/she applies.”
Warsal confirmed that the Citizenship Commission has given citizenship by naturalization to several people married to Ni-Vanuatu citizens and have resided for at least two years in the country.
He said there has not been any breach on the requirement of 10-year continuous residence in Vanuatu for citizenship by naturalization during his term as the Chairman of the Citizenship Commission.