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NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (January 8, 1999 - PACNEWS/Radio Tonga)---Tonga's police and immigration departments have launched a joint operation to deal with the problem of Asians seeking employment in the kingdom.

The Minister of Police and Principal Immigration Officer, Clive Edwards, called a special meeting of senior immigration and police officers today to find a solution to the problem.

For the past three years, many Asians, mostly mainland Chinese, have migrated to Tonga, finding jobs mostly as construction industry laborers.

Some of them have been turning up with work visas, only to find on arrival that the jobs they were supposed to have secured in Tonga are non-existent. Other times, Asian visitors have been issued one-month visitors visas with employment strictly prohibited.

Immigration authorities have found out that overseas travel agents advertise Tonga as a good employment market with a stable government. Some Asians reportedly pay such agents large sums of money to get to Tonga and some borrow money for the journey hoping that a job in Tonga will help them make the loan repayments.

Today's joint meeting between police and immigration officials decided that Asians with one-month visitor's permits will not have their permits extended. Those with work permits but without jobs will have to leave the country immediately.

The plan of action will begin immediately.

Radio Tonga reports there are no official statistics available on how many people will be affected.

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