The first-ever regional meeting focusing on addressing the issue of criminal deportees was held in Suva, Fiji last week, organized by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Centre with support from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The meeting provided the opportunity for 20 police and immigration experts from the region to collaboratively identify challenges and develop possible solutions with national civil society representatives. Supporting these activities were officials from regional law enforcement organisations from the Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police, Pacific Immigration Directors’ Conference and Pacific Transnational Crimes Network including representatives of the deported community who had been identified as role models in their respective countries.
Presentations were made by experts in Pacific transnational crime, USA gang culture, deportee policy development, corrections management, information management, resettlement/rehabilitation, and knowledge management.
Over the three-day meeting, the participants shared knowledge, developed networks for potential partnership, and heard about the deportation experience directly from the deportee participants. The participants mapped domestic achievements of individual jurisdictions noting lessons learnt, discussed national challenges and possible solutions, drafted initial national priority areas to guide activities, and identified areas for possible regional support.
A crucial message repeated throughout the meeting, was the need to develop programmes that reduced instances of reoffending, not only for criminal deportees but all criminal offenders. It was accepted that the most effective method to reduce possible criminal threats was for the successful resettlement of deportees through the use or development of effective national support networks. Participants noted with interest the activities undertaken to proactively develop mechanisms and processes by Samoa and Tonga in this area.
The participants agreed to finalise a Statement of Intent to guide next steps they proposed to undertake individually to improve national law enforcement coordination, information management, and resettlement and rehabilitation activities for deportees returned from Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
Ben Toilolo, a member of the Samoan Returnee Charitable Trust Board and a youth counsellor in Samoa who himself was a deportee said, “by participating in the meeting, I was able to make good contacts and learn about different perspectives on the deportation process. I think we all gained a greater understanding of the challenges and I look forward to working with everyone to ensure better support for deportees for the benefit of the entire community.”
The meeting was part of an increasing engagement between PIFS, UNDP and affected jurisdictions on the issue of deportation. The engagement supports outcomes from the Forum Regional Security Committee meeting held in June encouraging Forum members, regional bodies and development partners to work collaboratively to develop national policies to manage the arrival, rehabilitation and reintegration of criminal deportees, removed nationals and returnees.
While limited resources to date have been identified to support the development of national policies to coordinate government activities, particularly in the area of reintegration and resettlement to reduce instances of recidivism, the results of the meeting point to greater engagement, cooperation and networking on the issue of deportees in the Pacific.
For more information contact:
PIFS: Ioane Alama, Regional Security Adviser, Political, Governance & Security Programme. Tel: (679) 322 0390 or firstname.lastname@example.org
UNDP: Cameron Noble, Conflict Prevention Programme Specialist, Crisis Prevention and Recovery Unit. Tel: (679) 330 0399 or email@example.com