US and Tongan authorities join forces to deal effectively with returning deportees

The United States authorities had overhauled the country’s deportation system so they could inform the Tongan government before sending back deportees to the kingdom.

The centrepiece of the reform was to allow Tongan authorities time to prepare and could communicate with the US authorities in anything they want regarding the deportees.

This had been revealed yesterday in Nukuʻalofa during a three-day conference with the Tongan government and law enforcement officials.

The U.S. Ambassador to Tonga, Judith Cefkin was one of the speakers at the conference.

She said: “Last year our regional security office consulted with Tongan law enforcement officials to overhaul the process for all returning deportees from the U.S which includes providing an advance notice and more complete information prior to deportation which might be useful to Tongan law enforcement”.

“The Tongan National Deportation Reintegration Conference is the result of two years of consultation and discussion between the U.S and Tongan government and law enforcement officials to create a platform to share our experiences dealing with deportee reintegration,” Cefkin said.

Deputy Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni said the conference was “a new beginning to finding solution to growing concerns in Tonga relating to reintegration of deportees”.

The Tongan government will establish a task force to deal directly with the returning deportees, he said.

There were 20,800 Tongans in the United States according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates 2013. The United States have deported 22 Tongan citizens to Tonga since last year.

As we reported last year Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva said in New Zealand in August that he was concerned about high risk deportees being sent back to the kingdom.

Hon. Pohiva said the Tongan government was not told about the crimes they had committed overseas.

He said after the deportees arrived in Tonga they were released into the community and there was nothing the government could do to make sure they would do no more harm to the society.

Hon. Pohiva said it was important for the government to be informed so they could alert people if any criminal deportees moved into the community.

 Rehabilitation facility

Tonga’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Vaʻinga Tōnē who was also in the meeting with Hon. Pohiva in Auckland, told the audience there had been discussion with the governments of New Zealand and Australia to help fund a rehabilitation facility in Tonga.

He said this was a big issue for Tonga, especially for deportees who were sent directly from prison to Tonga and did not usually join any rehabilitation programmes after their release.

In November last year it was reported that Patrick ʻUnga, who had received a life sentence for murdering his fiancé in New Zealand in 2003, killed again in Tonga only a few months after his deportation to Tonga.

He was sentenced to more than 12 years in jail for manslaughter after the death of Sitanilei Sime in Nuku’alofa in April 2014.

Yesterdayʻs  opening ceremony was attended by the Ambassador of China to Tonga, H.E Mr. Huang Huaguang, Australian High Commissioner to Tonga, H.E Mr. Andrew Ford, New Zealand High Commissioner to Tonga, H.E Ms. Sarah Walsh, Assistant Adjutant General Army/Director Joint Staff Nevada Guard Brigadier General Zachary F. Doser, Police Commissioner Mr. Stephen Caldwell, Members of Parliament, Church Leaders, Representatives from line Ministries, NGOs and Town Officers.

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