A Tongan man who was jailed in American Samoa for two years flew home on Thursday.

Toni Foketi had been held by immigration after his immigration ID card expired.

He was freed after a local Seventh Day Adventist NGO, Alliance for Strengthening Families, helped pay for a lawyer, Mark Ude, so he could go to court for an immigration hearing.

A spokesman for the NGO, Brian Loma, told Radio New Zealand Foketi “got into a little bit of trouble” and was put on probation. As a result he was not allowed to renew his ID.

Foketi remained in American Samoa working in a bakery and because of the trouble he had got into,  the immigration board told him he couldn’t renew his ID.

A news source in American Samoa reported that court ruled that Foketi’s failure to depart the territory after Immigration denied him a new ID to stay with his locally-born son, was a probation violation.

He faced deportation but was jailed until he could pay for his airfare.

Loma said the court gave approval for Foketi to return home, but the Department of Health and Social Services did not want the son left behind with no parents on island and they wanted to see both father and son leaving

Local businessman and member of the SDA Church,  Litani Ahoia and other members of the SDA church, helped fund Foketi’s son’s ticket while Foketi’s family helped pay his airfare to Tonga.

“When immigration would detain somebody they should have a process to ensure that that person has a speedy departure from this country and there should have been a way for him to go home or to accelerate that process,” Loma said.

For more information 

Tongan detained for years in American Samoa allowed to go home 

After two years in detention Tongan citizen returns home

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