Return[ed] to Paradise: The Deportation Experience in Samoa & Tonga (Natalie Pereira, UNESCO, 2011)
UNESCO’s Social and Human Sciences Apia program has conducted research on the experiences of deportees in Samoa and Tonga over a two year period. The Social and Human Science sector’s mission is to advance knowledge, standards and intellectual cooperation in order to facilitate social transformations conducive to the universal values of justice, freedom
and human dignity.
Deportation as described by the International Organization for Migration refers to “the act of a State in removing a non-citizen from its territory after refusal of admission or termination of permission to remain”. According to this definition the ‘act’ of deportation is referred to as ‘removal’ and as such it adheres to the view of the State rather than being concerned with the impact on those being deported.
Different methodologies were used to gather information from 56 participants, both male and female. Questionnaires, interviews and case studies were the three predominant methods. The data collected have been divided into three clusters; Section one, ‘Leaving Paradise’, basic demographic information on deportees, their migration abroad and the unlawful acts that lead to their deportation.
Section two; ‘Deportation Process & Experiences’ is an introductory section into the experiences faced by deportees. It is an investigation into the treatment of deportees by institution/officials and makes reference to issues of family separation and being forced “home”. It highlights one of the most significant issues as mentioned by participants in this study, which is that of family separation.
Finally, section three; ‘Return[ed] to Paradise’ looks at reintegration and resettlement in-country. The issues discussed are the four most mentioned concerns during the interviews, questionnaires and/or during the case studies. The first and most fundamental is that of stigmatization/ marginalization due to being deported with a specific focus on those that have been deported with psychiatric/physical disabilities. Employment and
educational opportunities is also highlighted as a major concern, followed by a preliminary look at the consumption of drugs and alcohol as a coping
The findings from this report show that deportation experiences are often traumatic; for both the deportee and those family members left behind. The issue of resettlement support in-country has not been resolved as there is no clear responsibility in regard to this concern. In many cases deportees have simply been left in a strange country to make their own way often with limited employment and educational facilities and organizations that require technical advice, capacity building, resources and professionalization of staff to adequately resettle deportees.
A series of recommendations have been provided for further consideration by national authorities and community organizations. These include the establishment of a cooperation agreement to facilitate information sharing amongst countries; development of a plan to provide support programs servicing deportees needs; establishment of a support organization in Samoa; provision of technical advice/support for organizations that assist deportees in Tonga; and a program of activities addressing employment and educational needs of deportees.
The research concludes that the decision to deport non-citizens from the USA, New Zealand and Australia has far reaching implications that not only affect the individual but entire families/communities. The deportation
experience makes an impact at the local, national and the international level demonstrating that deportation is not the end of a ‘problem’, but the start of a new and on-going dilemma for individuals, families and the wider community.