Head of the Pacific Immigration Directors Conference, Moemalo Ioane Alama and Agafili Shem Leo, Chief Executive Officer for the Ministry of Prime Minister & Immigration Services
BY Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA – MONDAY 20 MARCH 2017: The rise of international crimes within the Pacific region has Samoa become more and more vulnerable as the conduit of some of these criminal activities.
This was confirmed by the Chief Executive Officer of the Prime Minister’s Office, Agafili Shem Leo, who also heads Samoa’s Immigration office.
During the Pacific Immigration Directors Conference (PIDC) press conference today, Agafili said Samoa is being targeted by criminals and used as a platform to enter Australia and New Zealand.
“There are various crimes, but human trafficking and people smuggling are becoming prevalent and this is due to Samoa’s close proximity to Australia and New Zealand,” explained Agafili.
He said the level of organised crime is high especially with the availability of technology and these crimes are happening globally, and Samoa is no exception from being affected indirectly.
Asked about Samoa’s level of security and response to such crimes, Agafili said, security is good especially with the establishment of the Samoa Transnational Crime Unit and other law enforcement agencies that help monitor Samoa’s borders.
“And with PIDC’s establishment in Samoa, it helps provide intelligence and skills to immigration officers especially in areas of sharing vital information, and the speed information are disseminated and shared with other law enforcement agencies and stakeholders,” he said.
Too combat sophistication ways used by criminals, Agafili said the Immigration Officers need to be trained with skills that could alert them to such crimes, and they must also know how to respond to it.
He said for the past 10 years, security has been lifted hence the reason why Samoa has not experienced any major drug haul compared to other Pacific islands such as Fiji where drug smuggling is huge.
Agafili also said securing Samoa’s borders is a priority and Samoa is working closely with other Pacific islands including New Zealand and Australia in ensuring that organised crimes do not cross Samoa’s borders.
Agafili said the Government fully supports PIDC hence her bid to move the PIDC office from Fiji to Samoa.
Head of the PIDC Secretariat, Moemalo Ioane Alama shares Agafili’s concern and believes that the first aspect of response is having knowledge of collecting and sharing information amongst officers and agencies.
“The level of knowledge and skills should match the high level of crimes,” said Moemalo.
Agafili said countries should also not take for granted the low rate risk of a crime but must always consider any crime a serious one.”
There are 19 members of PIDC and Samoa will host the annual PIDC directors conference in June.