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Country seen as possible hub in global trade

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Dec. 1, 2009) - Fiji is being used as a transit point for international networks of human traffickers, with victims being brought in under forged Fiji passports, says former director Immigration Viliame Naupoto.

Mr Naupoto said some of these cases had come to the attention of the Immigration Department.

"Fiji passports can be easily forged making it almost effortless for human traffickers to get to Fiji or use Fiji as a transporting hub" Mr. Naupoto said.

Mr. Naupoto this could be solved through upgrading the security features on Fiji passport. He also suggested that heavy penalties should be given to those who lose their passports.

He said this would help Fiji counter the global problem of human trafficking.

He said Fiji was an ideal destination for human trafficking with its hub location and air access to major destinations.

"Human trafficking is considered the fastest growing underground industry globally," he said. These victims were brought to Fiji under the guise of coming to work or study but would eventually either be dumped here or moved to another country."

He said the Immigration Department had received unconfirmed reports of foreign nationals buying valid Fiji passports which they suspected were altered.

Mr. Naupoto said human traffickers scour the world, buying passports which they then sell for thousands of dollars to unsuspecting victims.

He was speaking at the Attorney General's conference at the Warwick Hotel. Meanwhile, former judge Nazhat Shameem said immediate steps must be taken to investigate and prosecute offences of human trafficking.

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