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Call in Samoa for more support for deportees

Apia, SAMOA — A Samoan deportee sent back from the United States found the transition tough, but with ongoing support he has been able to rebuild his life.

Vaaimalu Omar Benjamin Toilolo, who was deported to Samoa from the US a decade ago, found there was no help or resources.

His lobbying led to the establishment of the Returnees Charitable Trust in 2011.

Since its inception 144 deportees, mainly from New Zealand and the US, have been helped.

He said he intended to meet a group of US deportees due to arrive n Apia this week.

"It is always I guess a blessing to see other returnees on arrival come to the airport, and after being locked up and having waited so long you have your guards up and you are paranoid about what is going to happen and either you are handed off to officials or people in uniform and to me that is not a good start.

"So we like to do the meet and greet where we actually go to the airport and meet the individuals that are arriving and that way they can see that hey these guys have been in the same shoes as us and to let them know we are here for them and we can make things happen in the sense of support."

Vaaimalu Omar Benjamine Toilolo said the Trust needed more financial support.


The Prime Minister of Samoa says there is no way his country will accept deportees from the United States who are not Samoan citizens.

Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi told KHJ News that his government was still not clear on the details except that nine criminals were due to be deported to Samoa.

But he believed that the issue of non-Samoan citizens was all part of the usual bullying tactics by major nations like the United States.

"Those kind of people must not be deported to Samoa. If they are not citizens of Samoa they should be sent to the country of citizenship," he said.

Having said that, Tuilaepa said his government would work at resettling all deportees when they arrive.

One of the problems, according to Tuilaepa, is these people come here and they are "like people from another planet".

"We have to remind them they are now in Samoa and not on a different planet," he said.

It is not clear when the deportees will arrive but Tuilaepa said he is buoyed by the success of the Samoa Returnees Organisation, a non-government organisation at the forefront of the rehabilitation work with returnees, especially from the United States.