SAMOA HOSTS REGIONAL IMMIGRATION TRAINING

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WORKSHOP
Spotting fake documents can reduce people smuggling

By Alan Ah Mu APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Nov. 25, 2009) – People smugglers see the opportunity in gaps in border control in the Pacific Islanders.

"They know there are no machines and systems in the small islands in the Pacific to detect their activities," said Togatalima Fa’afouina Milford, Acting Assistant CEO, Immigration Division, Samoa.

"So they use us."

Countries in the region acknowledge their weaknesses.

But every year since 2006 they do something about them through regional workshops that make use of expertise from Australia and New Zealand.

Samoa hosts this year’s workshop which started yesterday.

The Immigration Division, however, secured an extra day for themselves and local ministries whose work impact on border control with the experts.

They held training on Monday with the experts, Elena Barlow, David Godfrey and Justin Watts.

The people smuggler moves humans from point one to point three via point two.

He collected his money at the point of origin so does not care if his "cargo" are caught at a transit point like Samoa, said Togatalima.

Because Samoa and the stranded people end up suffering we must be vigilant in border control, he said.

Identifying fake travel documents and other detection skills are taught in the workshops.

As of Monday afternoon, a participant from Land Transport Authority learnt the value of having hidden features embedded in drivers’ license – just like passports.

With an Edison detector at Faleolo airport, Samoa is not so easy a target for people smugglers as shown in the recent capture of three Fijians using false passports, Togatalima said.

A Nigerian was discovered last year using a fake passport going through Samoa.

The authorities here kept quiet about it but alerted their New Zealand counterparts who made the arrest. More sophisticated methods are used to provide for people to use the Pacific to enter other countries.

"That is why these workshops that are done every year are so important.

"They upgrade our skills and all kinds of mechanisms we can use to combat the fraudulent activities surfacing."

Togatalima thanked Australia through its Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), New Zealand Immigration and Pacific Islands Forum, for funding training in detection of fake travel documents.

Pacific neighbours have a mutual interest in keeping their borders secure, he said.

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