Fijian pastor deported from Vanuatu

Photo: Supplied

A Fijian Pastor has been deported Tuesday through a joint operation by the Vanuatu Immigration Services and Vanuatu Police Force (VPF), through the Vanuatu Interpol Unit, for violating COVID-19 protocols.

Pastor Jone Isireli was allegedly holding church gatherings in contravention of Vanuatu’s COVID regulations.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Internal Affairs, Ishmael Kalsakau, signed the Removal Order for Pastor Isireli on Monday, 30 May 2022.

His deportation was executed in accordance with Section 53A (1) (a) of the Immigration Act. He was further issued with a ‘No Further Entry’ red stamp into Vanuatu.

A chartered flight to Tanna Tuesday saw the arrest of the Pastor by the officers. He was flown to Port Vila and transferred to the international airport for the connection flight to Fiji.

Daily Post was informed Pr Isireili came to Vanuatu in 2015 and served as a Missionary. His stay in Vanuatu was under the Special Category Visa arrangement. Pastor Isireli based his ministry on Tanna under the Evergreen International Church.

During the COVID-19 crisis, the Immigration office was informed that the Fijian Missionary was allegedly advocating for the congregation members of his Church and the community in Tanna not to get vaccinated.

The government has put a lot of effort and resources to ensure the eligible population of Vanuatu is fully vaccinated. The government also respects an individual’s choice on whether or not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Pastor Isireli continued to organise and hold public gatherings through church services. This was prohibited as Tanna was under the COVID-19 Alert Level 3.

Despite being warned by Police and Immigration Officers to observe the health orders issued by the Minister of Health, the Fijian Pastor chose to ignore and continue to organise church gatherings.

Director of Immigration, Jeffrey Markson, said during the Pastor’s stay in Tanna, the TAFEA Christian Council wrote a letter to Immigration to have him removed from Tanna. Markson clarified that since Isireli’s stay in Vanuatu was to spread the Gospel, in 2021, the Immigration Department assisted the Pastor to sort his Immigration documents and he was given a Residency Visa to replace the Special Category Visa, so he could continue to live on Tanna. He was also granted a work permit, according to Markson.

Markson pointed out that the honorable thing that the Pastor could have done was to simply observe what the Government of Vanuatu through the Minister of Health has issued, for the safety of the people.

He reiterated that Orders issued by the Minister of Health are legal documents that must be adhered to by all citizens and foreigners residing in Vanuatu.

Foreign nationals are urged to respect the laws of Vanuatu.