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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Australian High Com office in SI denies local media reports about visa ban on parliamentarians

The Australian High Commission in Honiara has denied reports in the local media that Australia has imposed visa restrictions on Solomon Islands Parliamentarians.

The reports say Australia has re-imposed a ban on Solomon Islands members of Parliament from travelling to or via Australia.

But a statement from the High Commission says those reports were not correct.

The statement says when the Solomon Islands government expelled former High Commissioner Patrick Cole in 2006, the Australian government responded to the unfriendly act by canceling all Australian visas held by Solomon Islands MPs.

The statement says at the time, many MPs held multiple-entry visas that allowed them to visit Australia without having to apply for a visa at each occasion.

It says since that time, Solomon Islands MPs have been required to apply each time they wish to travel to Australia and their applications have been considered on a case-by-case basis.

The High Commission says a travel ban never existed.

It says the visa application recently received from the Minister for Commerce, Trade and Employment, Peter Shanel, was unable to be approved, due to the last minute lodgement of the application.

Last week Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer determined that the presence in Australia of two Solomon Islands Ministers who held visas to transit Australia on their return from Europe, would be contrary to Australia's foreign policy interests.

This resulted in the cancellation of visas held by the Ministers.

The decision followed the swearing in of Julian Moti as Solomon Islands Attorney-General.

Source: SIBC

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