9yo Puna back with her family

Monday June 10, 2019 Written by Published in National
Nine-year-old Puna is reunited with loved ones at Rarotonga Airport.. Nine-year-old Puna is reunited with loved ones at Rarotonga Airport.. MFAI / 19061043

‘Questionable material’ found on travel companion’s phone, says Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Nine-year-old Aitutaki girl Ngatupuna Raela is safely home with her family.

After two weeks in a United States detention facility, the little girl returned home safe and well tonight. She was enjoying dinner with her family, when they spoke to the Cook Islands News.

Her mother Ngatuaine Raela told the paper of their joy at her return, saying they were happy to have their daughter home and they were thankful for the support shown towards them.

Earlier she had poured out her heart on the paper’s Facebook page. “I’m waiting for you my daughter, can’t wait to see you,” she wrote.

Little Puna freed from US detention, returning home
* Foreign affairs works to extricate girl from detention

US immigration authorities had removed her from the care of family friend Marc Pearce, 72, who had aroused suspicions by flying her into Los Angeles Airport with the wrong papers last month.

American Customs officers found “questionable material” on Pearce’s phone, according to a statement tonight from the Cook Islands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration.

He was questioned by authorities, and was able to assure them he had the family’s blessing to take her on a month-long holiday. He was released, but she was taken into the Southwest Key detention camp for unaccompanied immigrant minors.

There are now discussions between the Cook Islands, US and NZ authorities, seeking an explanation of her two-week detention, said Cook Islands Foreign Secretary Tepaeru Herrmann.

The Cook Islands News reported that she had been released and flown to New Zealand on Saturday (Sunday NZ time), after the intervention of both Cook Islands and New Zealand diplomats, working together.

Puna flew back into Rarotonga International Airport this afternoon, accompanied by two Ministry of Internal Affairs officers. She was met there in the VIP lounge by close family members who had flown over from Aitutaki, as well as staff from Foreign Affairs, Internal Affairs and the Minister for Internal Affairs Mac Mokoroa.

An hour later, she was flown across to her island home of Aitutaki accompanied by Cook Islands government officials where more family were awaiting her return.

There has still been no official statement from the US authorities on their reasons for detaining the little girl, and Marc Pearce has spoken publicly of his fury at the lack of any explanation for their actions.

Herrmann said tonight: “The Cook Islands Government have refrained from publicly commenting on this matter in recent days as all efforts have focused on the expedient return of Raela to the Cook Islands and her family,

“Throughout her time in the US, Cook Islands government officials have been fully aware of her situation, via close communications with US and NZ authorities and have kept Raela’s family in Aitutaki abreast of the situation.”

Cook Islands Government officials would continue to liaise closely with Raela’s family to provide support as might be needed in the days ahead, Herrmann said. - Cook Islands News

 

5 comments

  • Comment Link Poor little girl,at least shes back home Friday, 14 June 2019 08:18 posted by Poor little girl,at least shes back home

    Message

  • Comment Link Rachel Jay Tuesday, 11 June 2019 01:05 posted by Rachel Jay

    Kia Orana e te iti tangata o te pa'e enua,

    It's a wonderful news to hear that our 9yr old little girl has being returned back home with her family's. It just broke my heart knowing that this child was here in the USA for two weeks all alone. My people, please please I'm telling you to keep and eye on our new generation of children. Do NOT let no papaa's to get hold of your children's and bring them here to the USA. Do not fall for any liars about they want to adopt or they will pay you money. Here in the USA, there are alot of bad people that likes fresh meats, meaning the child will be there target of molesting youngest. Reason I know, I have being living in Los Angeles for 24yrs and I see and hear when a child is being kidnap and being sold for slave or for sex traffic

  • Comment Link Sarah Oti Tuesday, 11 June 2019 00:04 posted by Sarah Oti

    This whole fiasco is a joke, why detain this innocent & vulnerable child for a timeframe of two weeks. This poor girl would of been traumatised, unaware of the situation which occurred. Really this should not have exceeded for this long. The intervention would have been for the child to return home immediately., instead of being detained. If you ask me this poor child should be compensated for her traumatic experience.

  • Comment Link Ana Monday, 10 June 2019 22:06 posted by Ana

    It seems a great insult to the family friend who took Puna with the families blessings to the U.S.No explaination w
    otsoever. I can only conclude...the U.S thought this old man is up to no good with a minor

  • Comment Link Kura Rio Monday, 10 June 2019 21:51 posted by Kura Rio

    Praise God she's back home safely.
    What's this world coming to?? Poor girl.

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