Reinstitute Rausim Illegal Aliens Taskforce
|JOHN BRIA in 2013|
Parliament reconvened on Tuesday the 24th of January. It was during this sitting that the Governor of Oro Province, Hon. Gary Juffa during Parliament’s Question Time alerted the Minister for Labor and Industrial Relations to a syndicate operating in the country. Hon. Juffa is perhaps one of the most qualified law-makers in this country. He has standing in Parliament to highlight issues of national security. Prior to going into politics, Governor Juffa was the Commissioner of Customs where he led a professional intelligence-gathering and investigative team. His close relationships with other law-enforcement agencies in the region disrupted transnational criminal entities and personalities. More importantly, Hon. Juffa demonstrated that serious application and enforcement of PNG laws is a profitable endeavor. Through fines and penalty fees to breaches of PNG laws, much-need revenue is raised for the government coffers.
With his background in law-enforcement and national security, Governor Juffa in May 2015 “called on the government particularly the PNG Immigration Authorities to seriously consider re-engaging the Immigration task force, Rausim Alien, in light of a lot of serious issues concerning national security, such as illegal immigrants, foreigners breaching visa and work permit conditions and foreigners dominating reserves jobs among others”. So there is a track record of consistency with the Governor’s concern about illegal immigration and breaches to visa and permit conditions of foreigners.
Whilst the PNG government is rallying for genuine foreign investors to come invest in the country, there are foreign nationals who are knowingly evading detection by government agencies. These present national security problems as well as reinforce the belief that Papua New Guinean jobs and economic activities are not being safeguarded by the government.
As Papua New Guineans go to the polls this year, the new government that is formed after the elections must as a matter of national interest immediately reinstitute the Rausim Alien Taskforce. In the short period of time this Taskforce operated, it provided a very successful template for law-enforcement in the country. In this commentary I will briefly highlight some of the successes and the background to the Rausim Alien Taskforce. Ultimately, Papua New Guineans ought to be aware of the nature of national security and how government agencies tasked with protecting their welfare are performing.
What is the Rausim Alien Taskforce?
In 2012, the National Executive Council (NEC) directed, by decision 07/2012, the establishment of what is known as the “Taskforce to Remove Illegal Non-citizens and Non-citizens Engaged in Illegal or Disreputable Practices”. The local media dubbed this Taskforce as “Rausim Alien” Taskforce. Mr. John Bria was the Taskforce Team coordination.
The Rausim Alien Taskforce was guided by its own Terms of Reference (ToR). In short, the Taskforce was directed “Remove Illegal Non-citizens and Non-citizens Engaged in Illegal or Disreputable Practices without delay”. The Taskforce was mandated by government to firstly, ensure a coordinated approach to identifying and acting upon unlawful and disreputable activities by non-citizens, and secondly, to work lawfully in fulfilling the national interest of PNG.
The ToR of the Rausim Alien Taskforce also mandated the PNG Immigration and Citizenship Services to coordinate and manage the activities of the Taskforce along with six core agencies that includes the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Royal PNG Constabulary, the National Intelligence Organization, Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, PNG Customs Service and the Department of Justice and Attorney-General. These agencies are required to participate in all the Taskforce meetings and actively contribute to its activities and operations.
Other line agencies acted in various capacities as ad hoc members of the Rausim Alien Taskforce, and where usually required to contribute to taskforce activities when the need arose. The Internal Revenue Commission, PNG Investment Promotion Authority, National Fisheries Authority, PNG Standards and Censors Board, and the Office of the Public Prosecutor had ad hoc membership status in the Rausim Alien Taskforce.
The ToR also outlined the activities and personalities subjected to Rausim Alien operations and scrutiny. An illegal non-citizen for instance is defined as “an individual who is unlawfully present in Papua New Guinea”. This usually includes non-citizens who have “overstayed the validity of a visa” or individuals who have entered PNG unlawfully. Non-citizens participate knowingly in illegal activities, and contravening PNG laws in the process. The Rausim Alien Taskforce sought to uncover such illegal activities that can be of criminal nature (e.g. violent crimes, property crimes, crimes against women and children, production of pornography, production and distribution of illegal drugs) or administrative in nature (e.g. working unlawfully in the country, conducting a business without appropriate approvals).
Achievements of the Rausim Alien Taskforce
When it was created, the Rausim Alien Taskforce carried operations all around the country. Fourteen (14) foreign nationals identified as high risks and threats to the national security of Papua New Guinea were promptly deported. A total of 156 foreigners were arrested for breaching various PNG laws.
In one operation alone in Goroka, Eastern Highlands in 2013, a total of 35 foreign nationals were found guilty and convicted. The fines fees that were imposed by the State totaled K1.3 million. Other notable achievements include the arrest of seven (7) public servants and 16 PNG nationals found to be harboring and aiding illegal foreign nationals. The Rausim Alien Taskforce also carried investigations into a fire arm smuggling ring along the border of East and West Sepik, and uncovered high powered semi-automatic rifled smuggled into the country, reportedly by submarine and logging ships. Such incidences, according to Rausim Alien Taskforce Team coordinator John Bria are indicative of the porous and unguarded national borders of PNG.
According to John Bria, the operations brought to light the serious transnational threats that PNG is confronting, especially human smuggling. Evidence from the Rausim Alien suggested that operations involving international smuggling rings were becoming established in PNG. The work of Rausim Alien Taskforce also demonstrated the urgency of PNG collaborating with regional governments to stem the illegal nature of human smuggling operations. The Task Force has uncovered rackets involving Filipino, Bangladeshi, Chinese and the Nigerian nationals in the human smuggling business. Such venues also facilitate the trade in drugs and fire arms.
However it is also a worrying trend that Papua New Guineans are either knowingly or unknowingly facilitating the presence of illegitimate activities. John Bria and his team revealed that foreigners are using PNG women as “fronts”. That is, they marry local PNG women and obtain marriage certificates from office of civil registry. Such processes legitimize their marriages, usually “marriages of conveniences” so as to acquire PNG citizenship status. In most instances, such marriages are not permanent as these foreigners may have wives back in their countries of origin and will eventually depart PNG, leaving behind fatherless and husbandless families. There are wide-ranging implications of illegal activities conducted by non-citizens that Papua New Guineans have to be aware of, and promptly report.
There is no drastic need to recreate new laws and entities in enforcing national security. Whether it is immigration, taxation, natural resources, labor, or consumer protection, the laws and agencies of government exist to advance the objectives of these laws. The example of the Rausim Alien Taskforce has demonstrated that inter-agency initiatives to safeguard the national interest of PNG are workable. The Rausim Alien Taskforce Group has provided a sound model of inter-agency coordination, where resources can be shared, and information and powers are centralized, making it a flexible and responsive unit in the enforcement of PNG immigration laws. We also commend the tireless work by committed public servants in the performance of their duties in a highly sensitive area of national security.