NATION | NEWS

Border Breach: How Humans Are Trafficked

The 2022 Trafficking in Persons Re­port published by the United States Department of States in July, indi­cated that the Fiji Police Force did not proactively investigate trafficking cases consistently.
02 Oct 2022 18:33
Border Breach: How Humans Are Trafficked
Fiji has approximately 1.3 million square kilometers of Exclusive Economic Zone, which translates to the vast and porous borders that we have.

The 2022 Trafficking in Persons Re­port published by the United States Department of States in July, indi­cated that the Fiji Police Force did not proactively investigate trafficking cases consistently.

The Trafficking in Persons report is the United States Government’s principal diplomatic tool to engage foreign governments on human traf­ficking.

Jose Sousa-Santos, the Managing Director for Strategika Group Asia Pacific.

Jose Sousa-Santos, the Managing Director for
Strategika Group Asia Pacific.

Fiji’s investigations and enforce­ment of anti-trafficking law are led by the Police Human Trafficking Unit(HTU).

 

Other law enforcement agencies are Republic of Fiji Navy, Fiji Immigration Department, Ministry of Employment, Productivity and In­dustrial Relations and Fiji Revenue and Customs Service, and Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Al­leviation.

Police Spokesperson Ana Naisoro said Police officers were trained to identify and investigate cases of traf­ficking and trafficking in persons.

The report further stated that “Government did not report efforts to investigate child sex tourists or facilitators who transported child sex trafficking victims to hotels or private yachts, despite reporting that this practice increased during the year”.

Captain Tevita Robanakadavu, the senior maritime training consultant of Maritime Training Foundation Limited.

Captain Tevita Robanakadavu, the senior
maritime training consultant of Maritime
Training Foundation Limited.

However, Fiji has significantly im­proved in trying to meet the mini­mum standards for the elimination of trafficking.

But more needs to be done.

Jose Sousa-Santos, the managing director for Strategika Group Asia Pacific, says child trafficking across borders in the Pacific is still at its early stages.

 

However, this is now a growing con­cern for the region, he said.

Mr Sousa-Santos is an expert in dealing with transnational organized crime, terrorism, cultural and human terrain analysis, and secu­rity risk assessments for private and government sectors.

“With Pacific countries and com­munities under economic duress due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a permis­sive environment has emerged in which child trafficking both domes­tically and internationally is on the rise,” he said.

Permanent Secretary for Defence Manasa Lesuma.

Permanent Secretary for Defence Manasa
Lesuma.

Traffickers, by nature, look for the weak points and the points of vulnerability. They use methods and tactics, which have proven successful in oth­er parts of the world.

These include the use of pleasure craft, switching off transponders, changing vessel registration, and making the most of the Pacific’s po­rous borders and many uninhabited islands.

 

A report highlighted in The Na­tional Anti-Human Traffic Strategy 2021-2026 stated: In 2016, children were taken to private boats anchored offshore near Fiji where they were sexually abused and raped by foreign adult men.

An earlier Trafficking in Persons report by the US State Department indicated that: Staff at smaller, local hotels pro­cure underage girls and boys for commercial sexual exploitation by foreign guests, while taxi drivers, nightclub employees, and relatives frequently act as prostitution facili­tators.

 

POLICING OF MARITIME BORDERS

Mr Sousa-Santos said lack of capac­ity was a significant limitation to ef­fective policing of maritime borders; and ensuring there was a robust le­gal framework in place to prosecute.

Ministry of Defence Permanent Secretary Manasa Lesuma said Fiji was able to monitor its maritime bor­ders with the resources, and budget it had.

 

“The Ministry with the assistance of the two forces and relevant gov­ernment stakeholders are able to effectively monitor our maritime borders with the resources that are available to the Government,” he said.

“The consistent increase in budget­ary allocation to the Fiji Navy and other maritime stakeholders coupled with the donor assistance of vessels to both the Fiji Police Force and the Republic of Fiji Navy ensures that we have adequate resources required to effectively monitor and police our maritime borders.”

 

He added bilateral relations en­sured visits by foreign naval vessels also contributed to capacity building and training, and maritime surveil­lance.

Senior maritime training consult­ant of Maritime Training Founda­tion Limited, Captain Tevita Robanakadavu, said the vast area of Fiji’s exclusive economic zone required the implementation of robust moni­toring systems.

 

“Just because of the vast area of the EEZ, compared to the sizes of our patrol boats and the cost of fuel, I believe it is best for Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji (MSAF) to imple­ment the Ships Reporting System,” he said.

 

COLLABORATION WITH MARITIME COMMUNITIES

 

The Ministry of Defence, stakehold­ers and departments, and bilateral partners have conducted trainings for the village headmen and district representatives to act as border marshals.

Any suspicious events are commu­nicated through the toll free number 1539 that links directly to the Repub­lic of Fiji Navy Rescue Coordination Centre.

 

Actions are then taken to address any suspicious activities within the reported maritime zone.

Mr Lesuma said this mechanism en­sured Fiji could effectively respond to any illegal incursions within our EEZ.

Fiji has a 24 hours and seven days a week monitoring centre hosted by the Republic of Fiji Navy.

 

There is a need for greater mari­time cooperation and coordination with regional partners.

It is critical as well that the county Invests in and develops its national capabilities.

Captain Robanakadavu recommends that the Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji implements the Ships

“From the above information, it would be easier for the Fiji Navy to detect vessels entering by the Auto­matic Identification System (AIS) and cross check with the informa­tion received,” Captain Robanakadavu said.

 

He added this did not mean for the patrol boat to move closer to the tar­geted ship.

“If the targeted vessel was detected by radar and not on AIS, then this vessel would be classified as an illegal entry vessel.”

 

Story By: ivamere.nataro@fijisun.com.fj



Fijisun Ad Space


Get updates from the Fiji Sun, handpicked and delivered to your inbox.


By entering your email address you're giving us permission to send you news and offers. You can opt-out at any time.


Subscribe-to-Newspaper