Security threats caused by organised transnational crimes is one of the core issues confronted by leaders attending this week’s 20th Secretariat of the Pacific Immigration Directors Conference (P.I.D.C.) meeting in Samoa.
Held at Taumeasina Island Resort, the meeting was officially opened by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi yesterday.
The meeting is co-hosted by Samoa and New Zealand with the theme: “Our Waka; or The Modernizing Approaches to the Regional Migration Challenges for a Safe and Prosperous Pacific.”
Tuilaepa said the theme vividly depicts the P.I.D.C. as a united entity, circumnavigating the challenges of migration security in the Pacific.
“The ever evolving security threats due to organized transnational crimes place all our Pacific states at risk and it is vitally significant that these are properly addressed at all fronts,” Tuilaepa said.
“The complexity of these crimes requires effective planning, timely response, advanced equipment and collective efforts from all P.I.D.C. member countries."
“Undeniable, with the constant advancement and sophistication of electronic communication and information technology, cybercrimes have intensified, placing our electronic systems at enormous security vulnerability and most countries are rapidly falling prey to these and other illegal activities."
“The ransom-ware is one of the newest digital security challenges that has rapidly grown over the last 12 months. This malware when contracted blocks a computer or encrypts data in systems, making it impossible to access information.”
He also spoke about the negative impact of the climate change, which remains a formidable challenge for Pacific States.
“The detrimental effects of climate change will cause internal and external displacements to many of our people living on low lying islands. These are serious and complex security concerns which are not easy to address."
“The Pacific Island Forum leaders have been very proactive in pushing for concerted response to climate change at the regional and international levels.”
He said the Paris Agreement and the Green Climate Fund are some of the profound outcomes of these efforts.
“I am very pleased to see that the P.I.D.C. through its strategic plan will position itself in the future to become the coordinating center in the Pacific for migration liaison, with strong emphasis on research, effective and timely information and Intel sharing and assisting member countries to build and improve staff professional development."
“It is also encouraging to note that the P.I.D.C. has included labor mobility in its plan, which most of the P.I.D.C. member countries are benefitting from with bilateral agreements with New Zealand and Australia."
“This is further strengthened by the conclusion of the P.A.C.E.R Plus negotiations.”
Samoa is committed to stand together with organization such as P.I.D.C to address security challenges that we face as a region and to support all efforts to strengthen the security of each nation’s borders.
“As host country to the P.I.D.C Secretariat, we welcome every opportunity to dialogue with member countries, and other regional and international partners in advancing our quest against cybercrimes, human trafficking, arms, drug and people smuggling, illegal fishing and organized gangs. “Samoa will continue to support the P.I.D.C to deliver its mandate.”
There are 19 P.I.D.C member countries; however, there are territories that are not yet part of the PIDC family.
“It is important that they are encouraged to become part of this regional network in order to jointly develop and maintain a secure, peaceful and prosperous Pacific.”
Deputy Chief Executive of Immigration New Zealand, To’osavili Nigel Bickle says their government is honoured to co-host the conference.
“The PIDC has been operating for 20 years now with its core objective to build the capacity and capability of member countries to mitigate immigration risks and harm.
“Having secure borders and working collaboratively with strong immigration legislative and policy backing in advancing economic development in the region with the increasing opportunities for us all in the Pacific to benefit from tourism, trade and investment mitigating harms of transnational crime and risks associated with it.”
Regarding the theme, To’osavili said the need to reflect on some notable achievements over the past year particularly; “the successful establishment at the PIDC Secretariat as a new legal entity in Apia; the appointment of the new Head of Secretariat, Maumalo Ioane Alama; successful transition of Akuila Ratu and Sachin Singh who have moved country and stepped into the new environment incredibly well.
Also the development of a forward programme at work that supports our shared objective and interests.”
To’osavili presented a “Te Waka a Kupe” to Prime Minister. “It represents the waka that was used by Kupe to track Te Wheke o Muturangi, the octopus. “Kupe and his crew of fishermen from Hawaiki one day had their bait and catches swiped by a large octopus.
“As an act of venegence, Kupe and his men built a large canoe to track down the octopus and kill it. “They chased it all over the Pacific and when their supplies became exhausted they spotted a long white cloud indicating land nearby.
“Upon reaching the land, they discovered a new land which later became known as Aotearoa. After a period of rest and stocks replenished they continued on their search for Te Wheke and found him – finally conquering over their foe.
“Te Wheke o Muturangi, which was thought of as a bad omen, was what had lead Kupe and his crew to a new land they now called Aotearoa, a land Kupe knew future generations would call home.
In relation to this forum, the waka has moved our people and made us mobile people with the ability to migrate from destination to destination. Te Waka a Kupe is presented to the Government of Samoa for their contribution to this conference and ensuring that our waka is forever moving forward in the right direction – which is secure now that PIDC has found a new home here in Samoa.”