17 Feb 2014

Claim NZ deporting to cyclone-hit area

10:37 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 damage in the town of Pangai in January.

Cyclone damage in the town of Pangai in January. Photo: AFP / RNZAF

Cyclone Ian devastated the Ha'apai island group in Tonga in January, displacing more than 5000 people and destroying more than 800 homes.

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

Mr Small said some of the islands are far from medical help in Ha'apai's main centre and to return people to that sort of situation is perverse.

He said 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.

Tongan Advisory Council chair Melino Maka has backed Mr Small's proposal for a two-month moratorium and said overstayers should noy have to return until the community has recovered from the cyclone.