Fiji’s Porous Borders a serious concern: NFP
The entry of the Iranian refugee, Mr Ahwazi Arab Loghman Sawari, into the country through Nadi International Airport lay’s bare Fiji’s porous borders, which is a serious threat to our national security.
In 2011 the then Defence, National Security and Immigration Minister in the military government Joketani Cokanasiga conceded that there were ‘challenges posed by our porous borders continue to render “non-state actors” the ability to thrive in trans-national criminal activities and exploit gaps in our legislative and poorly resourced agencies that are tasked to oversee the security of our borders’.
Six years later, nothing seems to have changed or improved. But magnanimously, we now want to open up to “climate change refugees” while working with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
The man entered Fiji under a false name on a passport whose origin has not been revealed. This is a serious threat where border security and primary lines are concerned. The Prime Minister and Minister of Immigration must take charge of this and oversee a comprehensive background check because Mr Sawari seems to have effortlessly secured documentation for a flight out of PNG.
This is not easy, especially for someone who was in detention. Either he had the documents on him that could not be detected by Australian and PNG authorities, or he obtained them from people while still in detention on Manus Island.
In an interview with Fairfax media from Fiji, the Iranian refugee had seemingly planned his escape and flight to Fiji for many months, somehow securing the funds for the trip. Mr Sawari told Fairfax Media that he cobbled together the money for the airfare from several sources over several months. How could anyone in detention achieve this?
While NFP sympathises with Mr Sawari on humanitarian grounds and we acknowledge that his rights and welfare is important, this cannot be at the expense of the safety and security of the greater populace who are Fiji citizens.
We are extremely concerned that there are no procedures and domestic laws in place to process individuals of immigration status like this. And this is evidenced by the statement from the Immigration Director that they are awaiting his contact with them, signaling a lack of urgency where our porous borders could pose serious issues for the rest of the Pacific region, as we are a central hub of movement in the South Pacific and beyond.
Mr Sawari has already declared his intention to stay in Fiji and not Australia or PNG. The Immigration Department is lackadaisical in dealing with this case and this falls squarely on the Prime Minister and Immigration Minister to manage expeditiously given the precedent such an incident has set.
Professor Biman Prasad