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   Vol. 67/No. 13           April 21, 2003  
Samoans fight for citizenship rights
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AUCKLAND, New Zealand--Thousands of Samoans rallied in this country and in Samoa March 27, to demand the repeal of a 1982 law denying them the automatic right to New Zealand citizenship.

In Wellington, 2,000 protested at Parliament, where they presented a 100,000-signature petition. About 3,000 demonstrated outside the New Zealand High Commission in Apia, the capital of Samoa. A smaller protest took place in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa, was seized by the New Zealand rulers from German control in 1914 and remained a colony until gaining independence in 1962. The eastern islands of the Samoa group are a U.S. colony.

In 1982, Falemai Lesa, a Samoan woman who faced deportation from New Zealand for "overstaying" her entry permit, took her case to the Privy Council in London, New Zealandís highest court of appeal.

The Council ruled that she was a New Zealand citizen by virtue of legislation in force when Samoa was a colony of New Zealand. This legislation, the Council said, applied to all Samoans born between 1924 and 1948, and their heirs. In effect, the ruling would have removed harsh immigration restrictions faced by Samoans, allowing them open entry to New Zealand.

Responding rapidly, within two months, the National Party government of the day, with support of the then opposition Labour Party, passed the 1982 Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act, which overturned the Privy Council ruling. It is this law protesters demanded be repealed on March 27, to allow Samoans entry to and citizenship rights in New Zealand.

The population of independent Samoa is 182,000. The 1996 census counted around 101,800 Samoans living in New Zealand, just over half of whom were born here.  
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