Government struggles to deal with overstayers in Tonga

    The government of Tonga is struggling to deal with overstayers.

    Fijian and Chinese labourers are among the biggest offenders.

    Now a Fijian community leader has asked for an amnesty and the Tongan government says it is considering changing the current policy for migrant workers and asking the Fijian authorities to make sure Fijian workers go home when their contracts expire.

    The secretary of Tongaʻs Ministry of Foreign Affairs,  Vaʻinga Tōnē, said there were 300 Fijian overstayers in Tonga.

    There are also hundreds of  Chinese overstayers in Tonga as well as people from other countries who have remained in the kingdom after their visas ran out.

    Vaʻinga said there was a huge problem with Fijians who worked as domestic labourers.

    He did not go into details, but said the government was finding the problem hard to deal with.

    Some of the Fijians who overstayed their visas did not want to return to Fiji, he said.

    Vaʻinga said the problem was that if the government granted an amnesty to the Fijian, other nationalities, including the Chinese, must be given the same opportunity.

    Complaints

    Kaniva News reported in January this year that the Fijian government was investigating claims by Fijian workers in Tonga who said they were being mistreated, bullied and intimidated.

    The Fijians claimed they were falsely promised certain jobs in the kingdom, but that did not happen when they arrived there.

    The investigation was launched after Fiji’s minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations, Semi Koroilavesau told Fiji media he received “an electronic mail on Tuesday night stating the alleged current working conditions that Fijians are facing in the island kingdom.”

    Tongan overstayers

    But while Fijian and Chinese overstayers are a problem in Tonga, overstayers from the kingdom are a problem in New Zealand.

    Last week the Tongan community in Auckland raised the issue of overstayers with Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva during his state visit.

    Some concerned Tongan-Aucklanders told the Prime Minister they wanted him to urge the New Zealand government to legalise the Tongan overstayers in New Zealand.

    According to estimates published by the New Zealand Government’s Immigration Department, there were 2,381 Tongan overstayers living in New Zealand in January.

    Tongan overstayers made up the largest number of overstayers in New Zealand closely followed by Samoans (2,124 overstayers), the Chinese with 1,226 overstayers, and Indians with 763 overstayers.

    However, Hon. Pōhiva said it was difficult for the Tongan Government  to ask to New Zealand to legalise the Tongan overstayers.

    “If we ask them to legalise the overstayers they would ask us something in return which we would find it more difficult to deal with” Hon Pohiva said.

    However he agreed with the suggestion that the Tongan government should talk to New Zealand authorities about including overstayers from the kingdom in the Pacific Quota Category.

    A total of 250 Tongan citizens are allowed each year to register for a ballot to come to New Zealand.

    If their name is drawn from the ballot, they can apply for a resident’s visa, will allow them to work, live, and study in New Zealand indefinitely.

    Hon. Pohiva said his government would talk to the New Zealand authorities to consider those Tongan overstayers who have particular skills and are well settled.

    According to Radio New Zealand, the overall number of people who stayed in the country after their visa expired has almost halved in the past 15 years, from an estimated 20,657 in 2000 to 10,848 in January, 2016.

    Immigration New Zealand told RNZ it had negotiated the voluntary departure of many overstayers rather than formally deporting them. It said more than over 1200 people left New Zealand voluntarily in the 2014-2015 financial year.

    The main points

    • The government of Tonga is struggling to deal with overstayers.
    • Fijian and Chinese labourers are among the biggest offenders.
    • The Tongan government says it is considering changing the current policy for migrant workers.
    • However, while Fijian and Chinese overstayers are a problem in Tonga, overstayers from the kingdom are a problem in New Zealand.

    For more information

    In Tonga: Fijians ‘Mistreated’ (Fiji Sun)

    Show compassion to overstayers, Immigration NZ urged (Radio New Zealand)

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