There is a scandal underway concerning Samoan passports. It seems to go all the way up to the Prime Minister (not a surprise) and involves several levels of leadership. Part of this is being blown out by a mysterious guy named OLP (clearly not his real name). However, it could have some indirectly effects on travelers to Samoa.
The bottom line is that some Samoan passports were given to some people for a price and some of them were even being sold online. I mean, a Nigerian with a passport from Samoa seems legit, right? Well, it seems many Africans were getting these passports.
What is mind blowing to me is that why would people want a Samoa passport? It is a really weak one in the scope of the world. According to the Passport Index, Samoa is ranked 34 out of 92 passports. While it is almost in the top third, it does not carry much weight. Interestingly, Venezuela has a stronger passport that is a communist country that no one trust. This is the state of the passport for Samoan citizens.
It seems that David Nomereta Uaine has been arrested for the mess but he is probably just the fall guy to protect the Prime Minister. Like it or not, he has his hands in anything and everything that the government of Samoa touches.
What does it mean for travelers to Samoa?
It is simple. With more eyes on the Samoa Immigration, getting through it at the airports is going to be tighter. The laid back and easy going passage is a thing of the past. They will follow the rules strictly and it that will take more time to get through the process. As much as it sucks, it is a way of life after this big mess.
I can remember leaving American Samoa only to find out I landed in Apia without my passport. In most countries, they would send you right back to get it. They just used my information from the half dozen trips before and told me to not let it happen again. Was that illegal? Probably. Did they make a big deal out of it? Not at all.
However, that will not happening anymore in the wake of fake passports being sold. It will be more important than ever in Apia to make sure you have your passport in order, updated and that you have at least six months left on it or they could very well send you back at your expense.
It will hurt everyone and it will make life harder for Samoan passport holders too. If they didn’t face enough crap at border control in Hawaii and Auckland; there will be more due to the question of the authenticity of their passport.
If this will have effects of how law enforcement is carried out with tourists while in the country is unknown. My experience with the Samoa Police leads me to believe they won’t do any more work than they have to though.
This is not the first passport scandal for Samoans
While this is about the passport of Samoa, there was another scandals with them trying buying birth certificates stating they were born at LBJ Medical Center to get US Passports and possibly to join the US military. It is very common for people from American Samoa to join the service as a career path.
That scandal widened to the point that passports could not longer be processed in American Samoa but have to be send to Hawaii. There was also a large scale investigation into the Immigration office by the FBI. The Lieutenant Governor at the time was taken into custody for his part in the mess.
Due to that scandal, the border between American Samoa and Hawaii is very strict and even people with deep roots to American Samoa are questioned when they come to the rest of the United States. It is not their fault but the government has a logical reason to question them in light of the pay for play system that the American Samoan government was running.
As far as people visiting American Samoa, the standard rules for visiting the United States still apply and of course US Citizens do not have to worry about it. However, they do seem to have some special rules for Australians and New Zealanders. Currently, the border control of American Samoa is still locally controlled but for how long, no one knows.
Samoa Tourism Authority is sleeping
Realizing that this could make people wonder about visiting a country that can’t seem to get enough tourist to be competitive already, you would think that the Samoa Tourism Authority would be making rounds on the media making sure people knew it was business as usual. However, the truth is that they are sleeping on the job and not doing anything.
Sadly, this seems to be the typical role of the tourism board in Samoa. They do not do much besides how an ineffective website that they want a cut for any real work they have to do. I am sorry if I offend someone in Apia but this is the problem with STA.
With all the foolish things that the government of Samoa seems to be doing, you would think that tourism authority would be actively trying to do damage control to make sure people are still coming to the resorts on the South Coast of Upolu. Well, that is not the case and it does not seem to be something they value.
I do not expect it to change in the future, either.