Working with Deported Individuals in the Pacific: Legal and Ethical Issues (UNDP Pacific Centre, 2012)
Deportation as described by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) refers to “the act of a State in the exercise of its sovereignty in removing an alien from its territory to a certain place after refusal of admission or termination of permission to remain.” Therefore, for
criminal deportation cases this refers to the removal of an alien (non-citizen) after committing a criminal act in the state.
Currently, the three main countries deporting Pacific Islanders for criminal offences are Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America (USA). It is unknown how many deported individuals there are in all PICs due to limited and unknown statistical data; however countries such as Samoa and Tonga have recognized the increased numbers of deported individuals and have actively established mechanisms with law enforcement agencies and civil society organizations to manage and support individuals who have been deported for criminal offences.
According to the Return[ed] To Paradise – The Deportation Experience in Samoa & Tonga report the average length of time deported individuals spent incarcerated was just over four years, with the majority serving less than two years in prison. The most common offences reported were common/aggravated assaults; equal second were aggravated robbery/ burglary and theft/robbery/burglary/; and third were drug related charges although violent and other serious offences were also reported. It was also reported that approximately 40 per cent of deported individuals that participated in the study had at some point reoffended with a small
number having served prison time in-country.
In terms of reintegration the report found that there were significant barriers, some of which are as follows:
• Deported individuals face significant social dislocation on arrival as they
have typically spent most of their lives abroad; they suffer from family separation and are often not prepared to start a new life in an unfamiliar country.
• Lack connectedness with community/village and culture; limited connections with family and poor local language skills make employment difficult; deported individuals generally rely on money remitted by relatives abroad.
• Discrimination and xenophobia create further barriers to reintegration;
local communities may express shame, fear or rejection of the deported individuals.
• The dislocation and barriers to reintegration may give rise to serious
mental illness; inability to deal with already existing disabilities and despair; completed suicide cases have been reported; recidivism has been reported due to lack of economic and social options.
Supporting PICs to establish and enhance mechanisms that assist deported individuals through the period of reintegration will enable them to become responsible, participating members of the society, this is not only from a human rights perspective, but also from a security perspective. Ensuring that deported individuals have a wide range of choices and opportunities to facilitate their reintegration is a multidisciplinary and long-term approach that benefits both the community and the individual (re-)engaging with that community.