Inquiry into Australian bus company after Tongan woman left stranded, Ministry says

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Tonga’s Ministry of Internal Affairs says it is concerned about the bus company in Australia that took 39 Tongan fruit pickers from Bowen in North Queensland to Brisbane airport.

The Ministry told Kaniva News an inquiry was underway after the bus broke down in Miriam Vale 464 kilometres north of Brisbane and its replacement left without Tongan worker Sofia Filo, 30, of Ma’ufanga.

Internal Affairs CEO ʻAna Bing Fonua, said they had a meeting with the group leader on Wednesday last week in Tonga and some of the group members on Thursday.

Fonua said she met with Filo on Friday as part of their inquiry after Kaniva News reported that Filo was left stranded.

Internal Affairs CEO ‘Ana Bing Fonua

When the group found out Filo had  been left behind after about two hours they left Miriam Vale, they considered the consequences if they returned to pick her up, Fonua said.

They believed they would be late for their flights, causing  them to overstay their visas.

Fonua said their visas were due to expire two days after they arrived in Tonga.

The group feared that if they overstayed their visa they could not have another chance to return to Australia on the fruit picking programme, Fonua said in Tongan.

The CEO said some of the group had considered fleeing in Australia if their visas expired while they were there.

Sofia Filo. Photo/Supplied

Fonua said the group made contact with Filo after they found out she had been left behind and made sure she was safe.

As Kaniva reported, the bus broke down in Miriam Vale at about 11.30pm after it left Bowen at 5am on Wednesday 23.

Fonua said two men took a break with Sofia on the chairs in a nearby park after the bus broke down. In our report we quoted Filo as saying they were two women.

Fonua said the men left the park early while Filo was still there and when the replacement bus arrived they boarded it without knowing Filo was sleeping in the park.

The CEO said if the bus had returned to pick up Filo it would have taken two hours to reach her, which meant the group would have missed their flight to Sydney to return to Tonga.

She said attempts to contact Police over the cellphone were unsuccessful because Filo did not have any credit on her phone.

The main points

  • Tonga’s Ministry of Internal Affairs says it is concerned about the bus company in Australia that took 39 Tongan fruit pickers from Bowen in North Queensland to Brisbane airport.
  • The Ministry told Kaniva News an inquiry was underway after the bus broke down in Miriam Vale 467 kilometres north of Brisbane and its replacement left without Tongan worker Sofia Filo, 30, of Ma’ufanga.
  • Internal Affairs CEO ʻAna Bing Fonua, said they had a meeting with the group leader on Wednesday last week in Tonga and some of the group members on Thursday.
  • Fonua said she met with Filo on Friday as part of their inquiry after Kaniva News reported that Filo was left stranded.

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