Tuvalu News

By Chris Daniels

New Zealand Herald

Deported Mother to Leave Baby

Malama Soapi has been forced to stop breastfeeding her baby son.

She has introduced him to a bottle because this morning she is being deported to Tuvalu and may not see him for five years.

Appeals to the Minister of Immigration, Tuariki Delamere, have failed.

At 10 am, 18-year-old Malama Soapi, of Henderson, must say goodbye to her 3-month-old son, Manatu, and fly back to an island where she has no home or job.

Her mother, Kesia, was deported two weeks ago and her two younger sisters have been forced to go on a benefit.

Kesia arrived with her children under a work scheme in the early 1990s, but overstayed her permit.

When Malama was told she had to leave New Zealand, she was faced with an agonising decision - to take baby Manatu with her or leave him behind with family.

"My boy is not going to survive there," she said. "We have no family left, no house or land there."

The relatives who are looking after her sisters will now look after her baby.

Mr Delamere said New Zealand law contributed to the problem by allowing the children of overstayers to become citizens. "It's a lousy situation."

He believed the law should be changed so children of overstayers did not qualify for citizenship.

Most people removed from New Zealand had worked hard and paid taxes like the Soapi family, he said.

"The fact is, they are economic refugees. I can understand why they want to come here ... but the last thing we need is hundreds of thousands of unqualified, unskilled economic refugees."

Those who found work were taking jobs from New Zealanders; others became a drain on the state.

The Soapis' immigration consultant, Gene Leckey, said the situation was disgusting.

"They have forced this young woman to decide whether to leave her child. They have already broken up the family when they deported her mother."

Mr Leckey has appealed against the deportation on humanitarian grounds. Legal aid is not available in such cases. The Soapi family would have had to raise thousands of dollars to take an appeal against the deportation order to the High Court - money they do not have.

None of the Soapi family had needed social welfare since they arrived, said Mr Leckey. But once Kesia was deported, he had to arrange for her youngest daughters to be put on a benefit for unsupported children.

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