Members of the public should not be alarmed by the arrival of eight Samoan criminals who have been sent back from the United States of America.
The deportees are scheduled to land at Faleolo International Airport on a chartered flight paid for by the United States of America today.
Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet, (M.P.M.C.), Agafili Shem Leo, who is also the Chief Immigration Officer, confirmed their arrival yesterday.
“They are convicted of assault, armed with a dangerous weapon. There are no convicted murderers, drug dealers or sex offenders among the crowd."
“Our Government, through our Embassy in New York, has been in discussion with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on the status and progress of returning Samoans who have been convicted of felony in the U.S. and we have been advised regularly."
“As of now, the information relayed to our office is that there are a total of eight deportees."
“And the Federal government is paying for all the expenses, including the landing fees at our airport."
“Usually people deported to Samoa come through commercial flights; however this time, the U.S. Government opted to charter a flight on their expense and we are not paying anything.”
Agafili told the Samoa Observer yesterday during the phone interview that accepting back Samoan nationals who are ordered to be removed from the United States is complicated.
“There were requirements posed to the U.S. Government for convicted deportees to submit the criminal records, medical report, their birth certificate and most importantly are the families of the deportees in Samoa prior to the grant allowing them back into the country."
“And so what we have been working on the past few months is informing the relatives of the deportees and the families with open arms welcomed back their family members."
“That was actually the most difficult part of the process - consulting with the families of the deportees."
“We informed the U.S. Government that we are a small country and we have to make sure that when these people are returned to Samoa, they will have families to return to.”
Agafili said these people have left Samoa a long time and that was why it was relatively important that upon their return to their families, they will be working with the Village Councils to assure they are productive members of society.
Samoa Returnees Trust will be working with the deportees closely in terms of rehabilitation programmes to assure they will not repeat the same crimes, said Agafili.
“When they arrive in Samoa, they are free men because their crime was committed outside of the country."
“What we are currently looking at is the closely monitoring of the deportees while in their home countries."
“They are encouraged to join the Samoa Returnees Trust that offers programmes that will benefit them in the long run."
“America is not only the government that has sent back Samoan Nationals, but also New Zealand and Australia."
“In the meantime, we have the Transnational Crime Unit and the Police who have access to the deportees’ criminal record and they will closely monitor them."
“In the meantime, the public should not be alarmed, these people were all Samoan born and they are our people,” said Agafili.
He believes the benefit of having the deportees back to Samoa is that they will be working together with the Village Council, who will assist them by taking them back to their roots and giving them a chance to play a role with the untitled men of the village.
“That is the positive impact that is birthed from the relationship between the deportees and the Village Council."
“I have been informed by Chiefs in Savaii of other deportees who have become active members of society and remain law abiding citizens."
“While the Government plays its role in terms of assuring the deportees have families to go to, we also have laws in place in case a crime is committed by these people.”
Agafili reiterated the deportees are all Samoa Citizens by birth.
“That is why we insisted that if we don’t see the birth certificate, we will not accept their return."
“Also these are our people, they are our blood and flesh and we cannot turn our backs on them."
“God works in mysterious ways and they have been given a second chance and we make sure there are rehabilitation programs in place for them to undergo to assure they will not go through the same path when they are reintroduced back into society,” said the C.E.O.