16 Feb 2005

US threatens to deport thousands of Fiji citizens, says report

10:26 am on 16 February 2005

Ten-thousand Fiji citizens reported to be living illegally in the United States face immediate arrest and deportation if detected by the authorities.

But a US consular official in Suva, Kirk Lindley, has told the Fiji Times several Fiji Islanders caught overstaying or working illegally in the United States have also been granted what is known as voluntary departure rather than wait for the legal process.

Mr Lindly says those who wish to contest their residency status could ultimately be deported of they are unsuccessful.

He has denied claims that many Fiji Islanders are applying for asylum because of the unstable political situation in Fiji.

He says any such case would be judged individually and require proof of a well founded fear of persecution in the home country on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.

Fiji's foreign minister, Kaliopate Tavola, is quoted as saying he suspects American authorities are turning a blind eye on Fijians working illegally because they are providing a useful community service in the US.