8 May 2013

Fiji police anger Chinese community with human trafficking allegations

8:47 pm on 8 May 2013

Police investigators in Fiji have angered members of the Chinese community after telling media a human trafficking investigation was focusing on Chinese immigrants.

Police have been investigating a group of 20 businessmen allegedly involved in the sale of girls for sex.

A police task force spokesperson said Chinese immigrants were suspects, prompting the Chinese community in Fiji to demand evidence, or an apology.

Alex Perrottet reports.

PERROTTET: The Fiji Police Force has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Immigration and the Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority to tackle crimes such as human trafficking.

The Fiji Transnational Crime Unit spokesperson Savenaca Tuivaga told the Fiji Times an investigation was still underway, and said when Chinese immigrants are around, people expect prostitution, people smuggling and money laundering.

But the President of the Chinese Association of Fiji, Jenny Seeto, says there is no evidence from the police, or the media, that Chinese immigrants are involved in human trafficking.

"I have gone back and asked them for the evidence, and they say they don't have any. They didn't see any report. And for the Fiji Times to then broad-brush and target the Chinese in the way they did is certainly very discriminatory."

Ms Seeto says she is expecting an apology from the police, unless they can provide some evidence for the claims.

She says the law should take its course and her organisation supports the police effort.

Ms Seeto says there have been human trafficking cases in Fiji in the past, and they haven't involved the Chinese.

But to go and target and single out the Chinese is so unfair. There's been other cases reported in Fiji of other races and I am not going to go into the debate which race but there are reports of other races and they don't involve Chinese at all.

Mr Tuivaga would not comment, nor would any police spokespeople, following Ms Seeto's demand for further evidence.

The head of Fiji Police's Human Trafficking Unit, Inspector Aminiasi Cula, is out of the country and not available.

Arthur Caulton, the police commissioner for Vanuatu, is the Melanesia representative on the Pacific Transnational Crime Network.

He says human trafficking is a Pacific-wide issue and his police work closely with Fiji's police monitoring the movement of suspects in the region.

We understand that there's a lot of people trafficking in Fiji and we appreciate the actions taken by the Fiji police at the moment and we would look forward to more assistance through other parts of the region with regarding people smuggling in Fiji.

The Pacific Transnational Crime Coordination Centre based in Samoa is a joint effort of 17 transnational crime units centres based in 13 Pacific countries, with advisors and funding provided by the Australian Federal Police.

This is Alex Perrottet.