The Prime Minister and delegates of the Pacific Immigration Directors Conference in progress in Apia.
By Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA – TUESDAY 20 JUNE 2017: Human trafficking is very much alive in the Pacific and is increasing at a pace that warrants Pacific leaders to address it.
At the first day of the Pacific Immigration Directors Conference (PIDC) at the Taumeasina Resort, the Regional Coordinator for the United Nation’s Office for Drugs & Crimes (UNODC), Benjamin Smith confirmed the increasing threat of human trafficking within Pacific borders.
“It is an increasing problem in the Pacific which we will expect because, as other areas, such as Asia crack down more on human trafficking, the criminal networks at work are quite flexible and they try and find other roots and places to direct the human trafficking through,” said Smith.
He said the Pacific is becoming the new playground for these criminal activities.
He also said the influence or draw card to these criminal activities is the ‘growing economy here and more inter connected states in the Pacific.’
“It is typical that you see transnational crime like human trafficking increasing,” said Smith.
Smith said the UNODC report on Southeast Asia and the Pacific -Transnational Organized Crime in the Pacific: A Threat Assessment was launched in September last year.
The report highlighted some of the findings from various Pacific islands and also recommended solutions to the rising problems.
“Human trafficking in the Pacific is known to be undertaken for sexual exploitation purposes or to provide labour for local extractive industries, including fishing, logging and mining,” states the report.
For example, there have been reports of foreigners exploiting the cultural informal adoption system in Fiji (known as sinister adoption) to access children for sexual exploitation purposes or abuse.
The report also highlighted that the “source countries for victims of such crimes are broadening.”
This includes countries such as the Marshall Islands, where Chinese women are promised better and legitimate work and “are forced into sex work subsequently to pay considerable recruitment fees.”
In the Solomon Islands, reports of labour exploitation in foreign-owned logging camps and foreign commercial fishing vessels have increased in recent years, says the report.
“Regarding Papua New Guinea, there have been reports of Malaysian and Chinese logging companies and foreign business people reportedly arrange for foreign women – from countries such as China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand – to voluntarily enter Papua New Guinea with fraudulent business or tourist visas.”
However, as soon as they arrive in PNG, the women are “turned over to traffickers for transport to fisheries, entertainment sites and mining and logging camps, where they are exploited and forced into domestic servitude and sex work which, evidently, is associated with considerable health and safety concerns.”
A different crime from human trafficking is the smuggling of migrants, here considered in the same section as the illicit trade in both cases refer to trade of ‘people’.
Smith will make a presentation before the conference tomorrow and will elaborate more on the issues his office is dealing with