Human trafficking cases increasing in the Pacific

The Pacific is experiencing an increase in human trafficking cases and leaders in the region as well as international organisations need to address it.

That was the consensus at a recently concluded seminar on tackling human trafficking and people smuggling in the Pacific Islands, which was convened in Apia and hosted by the Pacific Immigration Development Community (PIDC) Secretariat.

Head of the PIDC Secretariat, Maumalo Ioane Alama, said human trafficking is a transnational crime issue that is being recorded as increasing in the Pacific region.

He said discussions during the last day of the seminar focused on the exploitation of fishermen. 

“We’ve seen quite a lot of discussion around the exploitation of fishermen, so we’ve also discussed a number of cases of sexual exploitation. Also potential sex crimes against children in remote areas and had number of cases reported from across the Pacific. But that’s definitely something we are looking at trying to develop some proper response, and how to manage the threat at the border and make sure we can support police in undertaking their investigations,” he told media, who were invited to cover the seminar. 

A number of Pacific Island states reported multiple cases of human trafficking and people smuggling, which Maumalo said confirms it is national issue that needs to be addressed. 

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“And for those countries that have yet to see an inflow of trafficked persons were very happy to attend this seminar so we can provide them some guidance on how they can solve their policy issues and operational issues,” he added. 

Maumalo added: “Mainly it’s a national issue and we’ve had a lot of countries report multiple cases of human trafficking and people smuggling, and we’ve had a lot of prosecutions in a lot of these countries and our colleagues from Fiji and Solomon Islands have reported successful prosecutions.”

Solomon Islands Immigration director, Mason Bugui, said the seminar was an important step forward to address human trafficking and people smuggling.

“This is an emerging issue, something that kind of popped out and like many other countries – it has now become a challenge to try and combat it, and trying to stop it.

“So this framework we are trying to develop will help a lot and it will strengthen us to move forward with our programs, and it will consume time and resources,” he said, in an interview with the Samoa Observer.

The seminar in Apia, according to Mr. Bugui, gives his office an understanding of what they should do to address the problem. 

“It gave us more understanding of what we’re supposed to be doing, bringing us together and we seem to understand that some countries are going ahead, and some countries are yet to reach the expectation,” he said. 

While Pacific Island governments such as the Solomon Islands are ready to tackle the issue, the lack of funding and resources continues to make it difficult for them.

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