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By Iliesa Tora

SUVA, Fiji Islands (June 24, 2002 - Sun/PINA Nius Online)---Fiji families and dozens of other Fiji workers living in Tonga face being sent home soon if their work permits are not approved.

This follows the Tongan Government’s move to tighten up on immigration laws amid public concern over the growing number of Asians and other foreigners involved in local businesses.

Fiji Tonga Association President Ratu Jone Lalabalavu said that Fiji people living in Nuku‘alofa have been told to work on their immigration papers or face deportation.

"The Tongan Immigration Department has written to all of us who have come in to live here in Tonga about the law changes," Ratu Jone, who has been working in Nuku‘alofa for the past 20 years, said.

"The law says that if we are not holding proper permits then we will be deported.

"This is sad for us, especially some who had come to like the place here and worked here for a long time. But then the law is the law and everyone has to follow it."

The Tongan Government is giving all non-Tongan citizens working in the kingdom three months to sort their papers out. Anyone that does not have proper papers after that will be deported.

Ratu Jone said: "The Tongan Government opened up the way for Asian businessmen to come in and set up businesses here. Now they have virtually taken over here in Nuku‘alofa. And because problems have started crawling up the government wants to stop that.

"The pressure from the Opposition, especially those like 'Akilisi Pohiva, has resulted in the Government setting out to curb the problem."

The Fiji community in Tonga includes close to 50 Indo-Fijians, with women working as housemaids and men mostly in jobs like mechanics or carpenters.

Ratu Jone said: "We have made our representations to the Tongan Government and the Immigration Department. If they do not approve some of our permits, then that will be the end of the story."

For additional reports from the Fiji Sun, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Sun.

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