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Ratu Epeli says country must be on guard

By Timoci Vula SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Nov. 30, 2009) - Fiji should stand guard against human trafficking, President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau has warned.

He said while Fiji had for many years been fortunate to be buffeted from human trafficking, "our history and that of the Pacific, sadly records that we have experienced, traumas of institutionalized human trafficking".

Ratu Epeli said recent experience showed history could repeat itself and Fiji could be used as a conduit to the global phenomenon of human trafficking.

"We should be on guard," Ratu Epeli told more than 200 delegates at the 11th Attorney General’s conference at the Warwick Resort.

He highlighted the report of the US State Department Trafficking in Persons published in June this year which covered 160 countries.

He said Fiji was categorized under Tier 3 according to the US State Department’s report, which meant Fiji was among countries whose governments did do not fully comply with the minimum standards and were not making significant efforts to do either.

The conference heard there were five Forum island countries in the report with Australia and New Zealand in tier one, Palau in tier two, and Fiji and Papua New Guinea in tier three.

Ratu Epeli highlighted the new Crimes Decree approved by the State.

He said this decree would ensure Fiji fully complied with its international obligations in international and regional treaties and conventions dealing with human trafficking.

"The decree creates a new and separate offence of trafficking in person. Section 112 of the decree provides that a person commits an indictable offence of trafficking in person if the person organizes or facilitates the entry or proposed entry of another into Fiji with the use of force of threat," he said.

Ratu Epeli said the penalty for the offence of trafficking is 12 years imprisonment.

"This initiative by the Government is a positive move making us compliant with international standards and therefore the need to have Fiji removed from the US tier three category of. I do not have any doubt that this will happen soon."

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