14th March, 2017 The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for MEIDECC and Foreign Affairs Hon. Siaosi Sovaleni today officially opened a three-day National Deportation Reconnection Conference under the theme ‘Reintegration into Tongan Society’ aimed for stakeholders to discuss and formulate a Tongan National Deportee Reintegration strategy.
Speaking to more than 150 guests Hon Sovaleni said Tonga is a developing nation and such conference is a significant platform to find solution to the growing concerns relating to reintegration of deportees.
“Tonga is a developing nation that continues to grow and adapt, as well as being motivated, responsive and open to new ideas. Conferences like this is a usual dialogue and a new beginning to finding solution to growing concerns in Tonga relating to reintegration of deportees,” he said.
Hon. Sovaleni added that reintegration barriers for individuals deported for criminal offenses are significant but for Tonga, social welfare programs are unavailable.
“Community social net provides for people who cannot support themselves due to age, illness or other circumstances through the redistribution of resources barely exit. Individuals who have been deported for criminal offenses have not, for the most part, grown up within these communities, and although family ties may exist, they do not guarantee access to this form of social support, health, unemployment, and a lack of income may therefore be difficult issues for deportees who face limited or no access to social networks.”
Hon Sovaleni said the continuing financial and technical support for the deportees upon arrival will assist them to be contributing members of their communities.
“Continuing financial and technical provision to build mechanisms that support deportees through the period of arrival and re integration in Tonga will assists in enabling individuals to become responsible, contributing members of their communities and in preventing possible continued involvement in criminal activities.”
US Ambassador to Tonga H.E Ms. Judith Cefkin said the conference is the result of two years of consultation and discussion between the Tongan government, U.S and law enforcement officials to share experiences about deportee reintegration.
“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,” 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.”
Ms. Cefkin said the conference is an opportunity for Tonga to formulate its national policy for receiving and assimilating returning citizens into Tongan society and that the strategy the gathering will craft in the next three days will serve as a guide and a support system for future deportees returning to Tonga.
Present in the opening ceremony were 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.
The conference will run for the next three days with series of presentation from various stakeholders.
The Government is also planning to establish a task force to work on strategies and policies to address this sensitive issue.
Issued by the: Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change and Communications