17 Feb 2014

New Zealand lawyer claims Tongans being returned to unsafe Ha'apai

7:41 am on 17 February 2014

A lawyer representing overstayers from Tonga says New Zealand is deporting people to some of the most cyclone-damaged areas of the island nation.

Cyclone Ian devastated the Ha'apai island group in Tonga in January, displacing more than five thousand people and destroying more than 800 homes.

The immigration lawyer, Richard Small, says the New Zealand authorities are wanting to send Tongan overstayers back to the area, and he has 30 such cases on his books.

He says New Zealand has a role to play as a neighbour and a responsible member of the Pacific Forum, and should introduce a two-month moratorium on deporting people to Ha'apai, on humanitarian grounds.