An aerial view of the Apia wharf and township
By Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA – WEDNESDAY 14 MARCH 2018: The eight Samoans deported from America landed in Samoa today via a chartered flight. Some were handed over to their families on arrival at the Faleolo Airport while the other families preferred to wait at the Samoa Returnees Charitable Trust (SRCT) office for them.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Agafili Shem Leo told Talamua the approval for the deportees to enter Samoa was granted after their families were contacted, and their criminal, medical, previous convictions and parole conditions were assessed by the Samoan authorities.
“We also had to trace and explain to their families everything and that they have to agree to take them in,” explained Agafili.
He said the deportees families have been very cooperative and have worked with the Ministry while negotiations on their return. All the deportees were born in Samoa and many have been away for a long time and no longer have close relations with their immediate and extended families in Samoa.
“There were some families, despite being related to a deportee, were reluctant to commit to take and accept responsibility for a deportee,” explains Agafili.
“Some of these families were saying that they have lost contact or have never heard from these people for a very long time, and did not feel responsible. But after consultations and meetings, the families finally agreed.”
The deportees have served time on the charges of assault and armed with dangerous weapon.
“These are serious offences in any country’s laws,” said Agafili.
He also confirmed that no American born Samoan is on the list of deportees.
“Everyone that has been sent back to Samoa is a citizen by birth, and this is one of the conditions we insisted on,” he said.
He said if there is no Samoan birth certificate, there is no chance of that person setting foot on Samoa soil.
The United States authorities paid the expenses of the deportees travel to Samoa under police escort.
Present at the Faleolo airport to await the arrival of the deportees were the local police and representatives from the Border Control Agencies, the Transnational Crime Unit, members of the Samoa Returnees Charitable Trust and family members.
When asked about the monitoring process for deportees, Agafili said there is no process because they are free people.
“Once they arrive here, they are free, and even the Samoa Returnees Charitable Trust (SRCT) has no authority to monitor them.”
Agafili however explained that the deportees are encouraged to join the SRCT rehabilitation program, and some of the previous deportees are taking the frontline in promoting programs through schools and the community.
He said whilst other deportees embraced SRCT programs, others are reluctant to join in.
“The reason it’s keeping others from joining is that they think the Government, police runs the agency,” said Agafili.
“We also inform families and the Village Mayors about the deportees character, and the reason why they were deported,” said Agafili.
The villages and communities the deportees will be living have been informed through the Village Mayors to ensure safety.
“This is why we insisted to the American Government that unless we find the deportees families, we cannot grant permission,” said Agafili.
“We do not have facilities like other countries where these people are placed under, so we have to trace their families,” he said.