A joint effort between government and non-government entities has seen the return to Tonga of a recidivist offender.
The inter-agency effort involving the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI), the Ministry of Corrections, Cook Islands Police, non-profit organisation Second Chance Support Group, and legal advisor Mark Short enabled the removal of the repeat offender last week escorted by an MFAI Immigration Officer.
MFAI Principal Immigration officer, Ms Kairangi Samuela, said a removal order had been issued by Immigration Cook Islands over three years ago following a court conviction and imprisonment. However, the recidivist offender committed a burglary while the removal order was in the process of being effected, was remanded in custody by police, and subsequently served time following his conviction and court sentencing.
“Upon his release, MFAI proceeded with removal proceedings, including transit visa arrangements with Immigration New Zealand (NZI),” Ms Samuela said. “We appreciate the collaboration from our government agencies and NZI, as well as beyond government partners that ensured the removal order was affected.”
Ms Samuela said that with the re-opening of international borders, MFAI is better placed to administer in a more comprehensive and timely manner the removal and deportation provisions of the Immigration Act, particularly for those who breach the conditions of their immigration permits and/or are convicted of crimes in the Cook Islands.
As of June 2022, a removal order is intended upon the release of the one foreign national serving time in Rarotonga prison. Six other foreign nationals are on probation for various offences.
“It is important that non-Cook Islanders visiting or resident in the Cook Islands ensure their immigration permits are valid and that they adhere to Cook Islands laws at all times," Ms Samuela said.
“We’ve become concerned at the recent increase in some repeat offending for alcohol-related motor-vehicle offences and assaults involving non-Cook Islanders. Together with the Ministry of Corrections and Cook Islands Police, we will be looking to ensure greater adherence to permit conditions by permit holders.
“I want to thank the many, who are the significant majority, who visit, work, and reside in our country, who comply with their immigration permit conditions and abide by our laws."