Shine A Light

Shine A Light: Border Breach:- How Humans Are Trafficked

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.
02 Oct 2022 08:08
Shine A Light: 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.

Fiji has only convicted two traffickers since 2014.

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.

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 Services, 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”.

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 organised 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.

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 in 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; and
  • Furthermore, 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 ro-
bust 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 MARI- TIME 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 marshalls.

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.

 

CONCLUSION

Fiji needs 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

Reporting System, given the country’s vast EEZ, compared to the sizes of patrol boats and fuel costs.

This is for all foreign going vessels to report to MSAF when entering our EEZ.

 

These ships will need to provide the following information:

1. Name of ship;

2. Port of registry;

3. Call sign;

4. Port of destination;

5. Estimated time of arrival at port of destination

6. All ships to report once arrived at their destination.

 

“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

Feedback: ivamere.nataro@fijisun.com.fj



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