Wednesday, 18 June 2008 5:16 AM

Fiji's Prostitution Problem

Fiji's Immigration Director speaks in an interview about the social problem that plagues not just Fiji, but the entire region.

As reported by The Fiji Sun, its Chief of Staff, Cheerieann Wilson, had an interview with Mr. Viliame Naupoto, Fiji's Director of Immigration, about the problem of prostitution in Fiji which has apparently become a 'booming trade overnight'.

According to the interview, the problem of prostitution is further enhanced by the fact that it is not just locals that are involved in the trade but also foreigners, especially foreign women, who come into Fiji under student visas but are involved in prostitution.

In response to the question of how students are using the system to get into the country and engage in prostitution, Mr. Naupoto said that the abuse they are seeing is with the students coming in to study English.
'When checks are done some have zero attendance. Usually this is an indication that these people are into other business because they are not attending classes. The English courses offered by our tertiary institutions are being abused by these people. They will come on the pretext to learn English and they do not attend classes and most of them are engaged in other activities'.

According to Mr. Naupoto, prostitution is a big business with some able to earn as much as US$200 a night.

In trying to combat the problem, Mr. Naupoto said that they 'go out and just do on the spot inspections. We do on the spot inspections in the schools. For example we went to check on the Fiji Institute for Further Education. We went to that institution where these Chinese nationals who are going to be removed and the three that went earlier were supposed to be studying English. When we went there were desks and chairs but no people. We just did spot inspections because we knew that the student permits were being abused'.

Mr. Naupoto said that they are able to handle the problem better with the help of the educational institutions who inform the immigration department when the foreign students do not turn up for the classes they sign up for.
However, there is the problem of some who do attend classes but are involved in prostitution at night.
Another problem is that Fiji has no policy for sponsorship so people who sponsor foreigners coming in are not held responsible when the people they sponsor violate the terms and conditions of their visa.

Mr. Naupoto said that 'for enforcement agencies it's always a catch up game', that they 'set up policies and they will find another way to come in', which is a problem all enforcement agencies face, not just in the region but everywhere else in the world.

Prostitution has long been existent in the region, with stories from way back in time when explorers first discovered the region. However, it has become a major social problem with the increased exploitation of not just women and men but also children. And with other social problems especially poverty driving people into the business, eradicating the problem has become even more difficult.
But as Mr. Naupoto says, 'We set up policies and they will find another way to come in and we will have to react to it'. Authorities simply have to be constantly aware of what is going on in their countries and work out how best to address the situation, and most importantly, understand the underlying causes.

By SECRETARIAT OF THE PACIFIC COMMUNITY