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Victim support group yet to view sex offenders registry

President of the Samoa Victims Support Group [S.V.S.G.], Siliniu Lina Chang, says she has not seen the country's sex offenders registry two years since its establishment. 

The Samoa Observer approached Siliniu for comment on the return of 23-year-old convicted rapist, Matila Ilia-Neemia, who is being deported to Samoa from New Zealand.

It is understood that the names of sex criminals are placed on the national registry, which was established in August 2018 after the Sex Offenders Registration Act 2017 was signed into law, by Head of State His Highness Tuimalealiifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II.

But the Samoa Observer has been unable to establish if it has grown in size or if overseas offenders like Ilia-Neemia qualify for inclusion on the list.

At the registry's official launching in 2018, Police Commissioner, Fuiavailili Egon Keil, said the law and the registry would enable police to track sex offender’s movements in Samoa.

It also mandates that offenders provide their personal details and prevent registered sex offenders from working in child-related facilities. The main purpose of the registry is to protect women and children.

The S.V.S.G., which is dedicated to helping women and children victims of violence, says it is not aware of the return of Ilia-Neemia who raped a 71-year-old woman in her home twice when he was 18-years-old. 

A New Zealand Immigration Tribunal this month ordered the man deported.

It is not clear when Ilia-Neemia arrives in Samoa, and if he will be received and accommodated by the Samoa Returnees Charitable Trust, a non-profit organisation set up by the Government of Samoa to help with the resettlement and rehabilitation of deported Samoans.

The Returnees have been contacted by the Observer for comment. However, the group has not answered emails, texts or Facebook messages asking if Ilia-Neemia will be accommodated by the Returnees.

Ben Toilolo, an advisor for the Returnees, did tell the Samoa Observer that he learned of Ilia-Neemia's deportation through the newspaper, but otherwise did not divulge any other information.

The Returnees group provides transport services upon arrival, register the deportee, help them reintegrate with family and make referrals for medical attention, to employment agencies and to religious institutions.

As of 28 March, 2018, there were 144 returnees, according to a Facebook post from the trust.

The Samoa Observer asked Siliniu if she has ever seen the Sex Offenders Registry but she said no.

The computerised database lists the offender's name, contact information, numbers, address, nicknames, affiliations, photographs, fingerprints, tattoos, body scars and other details.

When the registry was commissioned, Samoa become one of few Pacific Islands states to track and monitor a convicted sex offender after their release from prison. It is not clear who is on the registry's list and who is given access to it.

The Police Commissioner is yet to respond to questions sent to him by the Samoa Observer, seeking an update on the number of sex offenders who have been put on the registry since its establishment. 

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