Samoa Immigration disputes human trafficking report
20 February, 2019, 5:14 am
APIA, 19 FEBRUARY 2019 (SAMOA OBSERVER) – Chief Immigration Officer, Valavala Siaopo Pese, has disputed a report of human trafficking in Samoa.
Responding to a recent media article on a suspected case of human trafficking in Samoa, Valavala said the people involved wanted to get to American Samoa but did not have proper documentation. Consequently, they were forced back on the plane to return to Fiji.
“Eight Asians arrived at the airport from Fiji and they were transiting to American Samoa, without proper permits to enter the US territory,” he said. “We did what was legal under our laws and that was to return them to where they came from – we are not a waiting country so we sent them back to Fiji.
“If they all had their proper documents, they would probably be in American Samoa by now. But they didn’t so we rejected them due to incomplete documentations.” Asked if the report is true in that Immigration was tipped off a human trafficking set up, he said: “What tip? No such thing, the reports you heard about human trafficking in Samoa is wrong!”
He added that there were no signs of human trafficking and if that were the case, they would know, as they were trained to identify the signs.
“They did not have proper documents and so we didn’t allow them to wait in our country while their papers are being processed.
“Again, we are not a country – where people think they can come – and wait for their paperwork. They were transiting yet no paperwork, so we sent them back,” he said.
According to the Newsline article, a group of eight foreign travelers – who arrived in Samoa last Sunday – were sent back to Fiji after Samoa Immigration were tipped off that the foreigners were involved in a human trafficking organisation.