12 Jul 2019

Vanuatu explains deportations but questions remain

7:42 am on 12 July 2019

Vanuatu's government has defended its role in the deportation of six people to China without any of them facing a local court.

Andrew Napuat

Andrew Napuat Photo: Linkedin

Last week's move drew condemnation from critics who accused the government of bypassing due process to please China.

In a statement, Internal Affairs Minister Andrew Napuat confirmed he made the decision to allow the deportations, after the China Public Security Bureau issued an arrest warrant.

The operation was spearheaded by a joint collaboration between the Vanuatu police and Immigration Department, with Chinese agents only in the country to offer expertise and professional support, Mr Napuat said.

Six Chinese nationals were deported, four of whom had Vanuatu passports, which have since been revoked but were bought under the controversial citizenship sale programme, he said.

"Under the Immigration Act Section 53A (1) (B) the Minister of Internal Affairs has exercised his powers to remove the six implicated in international criminal activities from Vanuatu without notice.

"The Ministry of Internal Affairs would like to state that this not the first incident where assistance has been pursued from the Chinese police through the Chinese embassy in Vanuatu to facilitate deportation orders (for) Chinese nationals.

"The request to the Chinese embassy for assistance was made due to technical and linguistic challenges in the Vanuatu Police Force. Any translations required during the investigation, arrest and deportation of the six Chinese nationals, must be made by police officers with Chinese language proficiency.

"This is ensuring the operation is not jeopardised by misinforming investigators. Local Law enforcement agencies fear the risk of translators colluding with suspects to mislead investigations."

But Mr Napuat's statement leaves several questions unanswered, including the legality of detaining the six without charge in Vanuatu and why Vanuatu citizens weren't allowed to appeal against their deportation.

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