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Investigation into their immigration status will follow, says Mesepitu


THE five Asians brought by the Patrol boat from Ontong Java over the weekend are currently in self-isolation, awaiting investigation by authorities on their immigration status.

It was alleged the five Asians travelled to Malaita Outer islands to purchase beche-de-mer from the islanders after Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources lifted the ban last year.

Riley Mesepitu, Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Commerce, Industry, Labour and Immigration, said the investigation will start after the Immigration officer comes out from home isolation.

Mesepitu said his Immigration officer tested positive for Covid -19 after he accompanied the five Asians back to Honiara.

He said investigation is to ascertain their visa status and which company they are employed under.

“The Foreign Investment Division will also do its investigation on the status of the company the five Asians work for.

“We will also check with Ministry of Fisheries on its process to issue bech de mer license to the five Asians,” he said.

Mesepitu said after the investigation, charges can be laid against them.

According to the Immigration Act 2011, Section 28 (1), a person is a non-citizen if person’s entry into or presence in Solomon Islands contravenes section 10.

Section 10 states a non-citizen who is not an exempt person must not-

  1. enter Solomon Islands; or
  2. having entered, stay in Solomon Islands; unless the non-citizen holds a visa that is in force.

If found guilty, the non-citizen has a duty to depart Solomon Islands and liable to pay fine to the authority.

In the meantime, Opposition Leader, Matthew Wale has urged the Police Commissioner’s Office and the Office of the Prime Minister & Cabinet to clarify who these five Asians are and who gave instructions for them to return on the Patrol Boat.

“It is sickening to note that whilst many of our stranded citizens are still struggling to return to Honiara and back to the provinces, these people are given the privilege to travel back on the patrol boat, a state asset.

“If Ontong Java is said to be the alleged source and hotspot of COVID, then why were these Asians not even quarantined upon arrival in Honiara?” Wale questioned.

The Opposition Leader said it is highly questionable that these extremely suspicious events are happening and yet no one is taking responsibility for it.