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NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Maganti Tonga, Jan. 16) - Two Czech travelers were detained overnight at Tonga's Fua'amotu International Airport on Tuesday January 13 after arriving without visas.

Air New Zealand has been warned by the Tongan Ministry for Foreign Affairs that a fine of $5,000 will be imposed on them the next time the airline brings a foreigner into Tonga without a valid entry visa.

The Secretary for the Tongan Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Fekita 'Utoikamanu, said that the two Czech men who arrived on Air New Zealand flight NZ56, were detained at the airport and remained in custody until they were deported back to New Zealand on Thursday at the cost of Air New Zealand. Fekita said that it was the third case of this type within three weeks, so the airline had been warned that next time they would be fined.

The two visitors were eventually allowed to leave the airport terminal and spent the second night in custody at the home of the Air New Zealand Tonga manager, Sue Gardner.

Fekita said that a law was passed by Parliament last year authorising the imposition of a fine of $5,000 for every person that an airline brought into Tonga without a visa. This legislation had not been enforced but Fekita said that they would enforce it next time someone arrived in Tonga without a visa.

The two Czechs booked their holiday in Tonga through the internet and planned to spend two weeks at the Heilala Guest House, Tongatapu. The manager of Heilala, Sven Quick, was very disappointed that he lost his two guests when they were ordered to leave the country, but with some consolation from the local management of Air New Zealand he was informed that they would get visas for Tonga, and Air New Zealand would fly them back, if they still wanted to come.

Sven said it was frustrating for people booking holidays through the internet because of the lack of detailed information on countries that do require visas for Tonga. He said the Immigration department site listed some countries that were allowed entry without visas. Even the airline staff didn’t have the specific Tongan immigration status for all countries, he said.

He felt it was an issue for the Tonga Tourist Association to look at because when guests were unexpectedly detained like this after undergoing long international journeys to get here, it would discourage other visitors.

January 21, 2004

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