5 Sep 2003

Fiji Immigration head defends department on overstayers charge

10:12 am on 5 September 2003

Fiji's director of immigration, Joe Browne, has defended his department against charges in the senate that it is responsible for the large number of Asian criminal elements operating in the country.

The charges were laid by government senator, Ratu Inoke Takiveikata, who recalled many high profile crimes of recent times including the execution-style killings of four people by Chinese Triad gangs two weeks ago.

But Mr Browne says while there are 2,600 overstayers in the country, most are Pacific Islanders.

He says the number of Chinese overstayers is 357, Koreans 50 and Taiwanese 11, with a number from all these countries being students.

Mr Browne says the government's Look North policy was a direct consequence of the past coups when traditional friends distanced themselves and Fiji had to turn to Asian countries.

He says since the immigration department has a limited budget, border safety measures can also be looked at by the Navy, the Maritime and Ports Authority, the Marine Department, provincial and local councils, and members of the public.