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MIA proposes assistance for families of stranded seasonal workers

Radio & TV Tonga, Nuku’alofa, 26/06/2020

A cabinet decision has not been confirmed on a request submitted by the Ministry of Internal Affairs to allocate funds for assistance families of seasonal workers stranded in Australia and New Zealand.

Internal Affairs Minister – Vatau Hui says they submitted this request after a survey was carried out among the seasonal workers and the challenges that they are currently facing with the disruptions to their programs caused by COVID-19

There is concern for the families of the workers here in Tonga, as with coronavirus restrictions in Australia and New Zealand, there isn’t much work for the seasonal workers and they are no longer able to provide a steady flow of income for their families here, barely making enough to make ends meet for themselves.

The minister – Vatau Hui says if Cabinet approves this proposal they are looking to have the assistance distributed as soon as possible.

This would include all seasonal workers in Australia and New Zealand, whether fruit pickers, workers in the meat industry, or construction industry.

The Internal Affairs CEO – Dr. Fotu Fisi’iahi is also stranded in New Zealand, but he has been making the best of the circumstances, traveling to all the areas in New Zealand with Tongan seasonal workers, and gathering information about the workers and the challenges they face during this time.

In an interview with Dr. Fotu Fisi’iahi this morning he explained that from the information he’s gathered – the Tongan seasonal workers are coping okay so far, but it is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many new challenges for them and it’s also hard not being able to return home to Tonga, with the borders still closed.

However, Fisi’iahi says they are talking with the workers regularly, keeping them updated on the government’s efforts here in Tonga to try and return them from abroad while at the same time keep Tonga free from the coronavirus.

Fisi’iahi says the workers are aware of the risks of returning to Tonga and despite wanting to reunite with their families, they are willing to be patient, awaiting the government’s decision regarding the next step forward for them.

At the moment there are currently over 3,000 Tongans under the seasonal workers’ program in Australia and the Recognized Seasonal Employment scheme in New Zealand.

© Radio and Television Tonga News