Human trafficking on agenda

The changing role of Pacific countries when it comes to “human trafficking” and “people smuggling” was highlighted at the Tanoa Tusitala yesterday.

Traditionally referred to as a “transit destination,” the question was raised whether the Pacific has now become the “source and destination countries” for these growing global problems.  

The point was made by Agafili Shem Leo, Chief Executive Officer for the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, when he opened a regional seminar on addressing Challenges of Human Trafficking and People Smuggling in the Pacific.

“Human trafficking and people smuggling are a serious global immigration problem in the 21st century. It respects nobody, knows no boundaries, and transcends international borders,” Agafili said. 

“Today, every country and region in the world is affected by human trafficking and people smuggling whether as a country of origin, transit or destination." 

The Pacific has always been referred to as a transit destination, but in today’s changing migration landscape is beginning to raise serious questions about these general categorisations whether Pacific Islands are still transit countries or should we now be regarded as source and destination countries.” 

The workshop is being organised by The Pacific Immigration Development Community (PIDC). 

At the opening, Agafili spoke about the seriousness of human trafficking and people smuggling as a global immigration problem, where every country and region in the world is affected.

 “The leaders of the Pacific Island Forum have recommitted to prioritizing regional security as one of the pillars of the framework for Pacific regionalism through the endorsement of the Boe Declaration in Nauru last year; recognizing the importance of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion and prosperity in the region so that everyone lives freely, healthy and productively,” he said.

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He also revealed the steps taken by Samoa to address the issue.

“For Samoa, government has approved policy guidelines to address trafficking in human beings (THBs) and smuggling of migrants (SoMs)."

“The trend is very low for Samoa but because of the fast changing nature and complexity of transnational crimes to date, government has moved to ensure that clear and robust guidelines are put in place."

“As border officers from the Pacific region, in close collaboration with our partners, we should be equipped to articulate and to translate into practice this regional security commitment,” he said.

According to Agafili, our borders are becoming more vulnerable to organized transnational crimes.

“With the limited resources we have in our small economies, there is a great concern on the depth and effectiveness of our border control against organized and complex transnational crimes." 

“That is why we need genuine partners to work with us to extinguish the forces of darkness fuelled by the criminal minds,” he added. The seminar is being attended by senior immigration officers from across the region including a number of Directors and is supported by experienced experts from the International Organisation for Migration, United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime, Bali Process Regional Support Office, UN High Commissioner for Refugees and experts from the PIDC membership."  

The seminar provides an important opportunity to brings together immigration officers responsible for managing the complex movement of people in the Pacific to share lessons and experiences of human trafficking and people smuggling occurring through our shared borders. 

It provides an opportunity for members to contribute to the development of a regional PIDC framework to combat transnational crime networks that undertake human trafficking and people smuggling activities in the region.  

Regional stakeholders will look to develop a better understanding of national and regional immigration activities required to effectively combat people smuggling and human trafficking in the Pacific and find common ground to better coordinate activities for immigration departments in the Pacific.

Seminar participants are expected to develop a draft framework with supporting recommendations for possible consideration and endorsement by PIDC Members at the  organisation’s Regular Annual Meeting to be hosted by the Cook Islands Immigration in June 2019.

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