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400 Tongan deported from overseas countries since 2012

Radio & TV Tonga, Nuku’alofa, 14/03/2017

About 400 Tongans are deported from overseas including the United States of America, Australia and New Zealand over the past 5 years.

The Deputy Prime Minister – Hon. Siaosi Sovaleni made the comment while opening the National Deportation Reconnecting Conference in Nuku’alofa this morning.

He said Tonga is a developing country that continues to grow and adapt as well as being motivated, responsive and open to new ideas.

This Conference is a useful dialogue and a new beginning to find solutions to growing concerns in Tonga relating to integration of deportees.

In previous years we had about 400 deportees deported back to Tonga over the past 5 years most of whom were deported after committing a crime overseas many of them was brought up overseas. Individuals deported were mostly males between 25-35 years of age with medium of 28. The average length of time in the host country is about 4 years with no serving of less than 2 years in prison prior to deportation. 37 % have been investigated or charged following deportation, of them almost half have served prison time. 58 % of criminal deportees interviewed in the UNESCO studies indicated having spouses or partners overseas , while 50 present said they have one or more children living abroad. The percentage of re-offending is very high”

Hon. Sovaleni said the international Organization for Migration defines deportation as the act of the state in the exercise of its sovereignty in removing an alien from its territory to a certain place after refusal of admission or refusal or termination of permission to remain.

Tonga paved the way in 2008 with high level work on deportation that resulted in support of social welfare activities, such as income generation, counseling and family reunification to assist with reintegration.

HOWEVER limited financial assistance, lack of community support and internal work has hindered the integration process.

Tongans has been convicted aggravated assault , drug related charges and so forth  are being deported from the US, Australia, New Zealand and abroad to Tonga, there’s also significant number of over-stayers being deported , forced to leave behind families, children and spouses to a homeland they know very little about. Tonga Government and the United States as well as New Zealand and Australia have been working together on this very sensitive issue of criminal deportees who are being deported to Tonga. The US government continues to seek ways to improve the process and the US embassy have worked with the Tonga Police and immigration officials to ensure better manage of the process.”

US’s ambassador to Tonga H.E Judith Cefkin, said there are policies in place for the process of returning deportees which includes providing Tonga with a notification three weeks before the deportee is being send home and other relevant information to the Tongan officials.

H.E Cefkin also expressed her condolences for the passing of the Late Queen Mother.;

Attending this morning’s program were members of the Nobility, Cabinet, Diplomatic corps, foreign experts on handling issues relating to deportees, related stakeholders and distinguished guests.

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