The Pacific is caught between crime syndicates and the Australian and New Zealand drug markets, with the region experiencing a significant increase in the amounts of cocaine seized.
Experts including top cops from Pacific nations are discussing the implications of drug trafficking in the region, community-based approaches to addressing crime, and illegal activity in the maritime domain at the Pacific Regional Law Enforcement Conference.
Forced return of detainees from Australia, New Zealand and the United States has also been noted as a driver of criminality in the region.
There has been a call to review this as deportees have been linked to major crime operations including sale and manufacture of narcotics at a local level.
They have also been associated with a rise to the use of methamphetamine in Pacific nations.
Jose Sousa-Santos, Senior Fellow at Pacific Security College said transnational crime in the Pacific represented a microcosm of a wider global trend.
“The Pacific drug highway has spilled over into domestic markets for illicit drug consumption and production in the Pacific Islands region and drug trafficking has evolved significantly with the rise of local actors in transnational criminal networks,” he said.
“The Pacific and its partners have responded to the challenges of transnational crime by strengthening regional policing architecture and governance through enhanced law enforcement mechanisms, but challenges remain as the illicit drug trade adapts and takes root in the region.
“Drug harm reduction strategies should be contextually and culturally appropriate, and grounded in a human security approach that draws from law enforcement, government, civil society and traditional power structures. It needs to prioritise youth across the Pacific, as the frontline against drug addiction.”
There has been a call to include the chiefly system, the church, NGOs, and young people into such discussions and work out a way which will prevent drug use among the local population.
One of the concerns highlighted was the lack of coordination and synergy in dealing with maritime arrests across borders.
James Movick, Director of the Pacific Fusion Centre said in the past three years the issues of maritime security received a great deal of attention from external partners.
He said this led to set up of surveillance centres with the latest in technology, but this solved only one side of the problem.
“There is also wariness that these external systems could tangle Pacific island countries in broader external security dynamics. How do we ensure appropriate ownership in domain awareness? – by setting the engagement from the outset,” he said.
“You can have the best technology in the world, the best mapping systems in the world but if you are unable then to place it in the local context of local information, local adaptation or contextualisation with capability to project it and act upon that information locally when it matters, then your latest guiding systems in the world are not really relevant.
“A fusion centre is needed across the different sectors to be able to integrate within those different sectors as well,” he said.
Regions see huge increase in organised crime – 2 August 2022
The Pacific will see more movement of drug and people traffickers as the Asian borders toughen up on transnational crime, the Pacific Regional Law Enforcement Conference 2022 was told.
Top cops from across the Pacific have gathered in Fiji this week to discuss the impacts of transnational crime in the region and ways to combat organised syndicates involved not only in using the region to traffic narcotics, but also people.
The idea of organised crime rings have now become a reality as the trickle down effect can be seen in nations like Fiji, Tonga, American Samoa and other Pacific nations, as drugs such as methamphetamine and cocaine are becoming available for local consumption.
The illicit trafficking of narcotics across the region is just one of the crimes that cut across the Pacific borders, said Fiji’s acting Minister for Defence, National Security and Policing Jone Usamate, while opening the three-day conference in Nadi yesterday.
Mr Usamate said the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime identified the Pacific as a transit point for drug routes.
He said drug syndicate groups were continually exploiting the Pacific’s vast and porous maritime borders to import and stockpile drugs for their end markets in Australia, New Zealand, Asia and North America.
”Various types of drug trafficking are evident in our shores with an increase in the discovery of methamphetamine, cocaine, and precursors. Clandestine labs are increasingly being discovered showing the growing market that has been established within our region,” he said.
“The illicit trafficking of narcotics is a multi-billion dollar industry. How can we as a region put a stop to this? What is also unfortunate that while there maybe foreign masterminds involved, it is our own people that are directly involved in movement of illicit drugs on to our streets, into our schools, and into our communities.
“It is our own people that are directly involved in the sketchy recruitment of our people with the false hopes of greener pastures elsewhere.”
The Pacific’s vast ocean territory has become a key area for such activities and as other regions have toughened up laws and enforcement, the Pacific has become more vulnerable.
Australia’s Head for the Office of Pacific in the Department of Foreign Affairs Trade, Ewen McDonald said the issue is becoming complex because of the pandemic and climate change which had brought new challenges and new opportunities for some.
He said this conference provided Pacific law bosses an opportunity to look at how transnational crime could be tackled.
He alluded to the 2050 Strategy for a Blue Pacific Continent which had all the remedies to deal with such a security matter.
The conference has been designed in partnership with the Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police, the Oceania Customs Organisation, and the Pacific Immigration Development Community as a truly unique experience to engage with pressing regional challenges in law enforcement.