IT has taken an Iranian asylum seeker to show just how porous the region’s international borders are. Loghman Sawari broke out of Papua New Guinea and into Fiji, crossing at least five border checks in the process. In PNG he would have had to get past an airline clerk, a security office, an Immigration official and a final pre-boarding check.
Once in Fiji Sawari would have been screened by Immigration and quarantine officials. At no stage in this short-lived bid to escape Manus did alarm bells start ringing nor did any one of those officials think that this person was a threat. It is safe to assume that controls at the border of two of the region’s largest and most advanced nations cannot prevent the flow of illegal migrants. Even when Fiji’s administration placed travel bans on individuals after the illegal overthrow of the country’s government in 2006, people were able to escape the clutches of the regime. Lieutenant-Colonel Roko Tevita Uluilakeba Mara has a high-profile post in Tonga, lifted to asylum courtesy of a Royal Tongan Navy patrol boat just off Fiji’s maritime border.
The one thing Fijian immigration officials do well is to round up people when the need arises. Their swift action saw Sawari ambushed on the Queen’s Highway as he travelled with his lawyer to meet Immigration Director, Major Nemani Vuniwaqa in Suva. Bundled kicking and screaming through Nadi International Airport, he witnessed first-hand the efficiency of deportation at the hands of Immigration officers supported by police.
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