Pacific News | The Pacific Islands and the Devastating Effects of the New Drug HighwayOctober 24, 2019
In the past five years there has been an explosion in the number of boats, sometimes carrying more than a tonne of cocaine, making the journey across the Pacific Ocean to feed Australia’s growing and very lucrative drug habit. Caught in the middle are countries such as Fiji, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Tonga and New Caledonia, whose waters and beaches are being used as storage grounds for billions of dollars of illicit drugs.
“Draw a direct line between Bogotá and Canberra and it goes straight through the islands,” says Dr Andreas Schloenhardt, professor of criminal law at the University of Queensland.
Last year, PNG authorities intercepted and then lost a boat full of cocaine in the Vitiaz Strait, southwest of the Federated States of Micronesia. The vessel, crewed by six men from Hong Kong and one man from Montenegro, was thought to be carrying more than $50 million worth of coke.
Weeks later, reports emerged that some 120 parcels of cocaine had washed up on the shores of Fijian islands within the previous few months. Similarly marked packages had shown up in Tonga a short while before that, and at one point a 20 kilogram brick of coke was found floating in the waters off the east coast of Australia—all of them carried in on the tides from places unknown.
In the Federated States of Micronesia, locals found 50 kilograms of cocaine floating in a lagoon and, thinking it was white powder washing detergent, used it as lathering.
The appetite for cocaine consumption in Australia, which has one of the highest rates of per capita cocaine use of any in the world, has exploded. On top of that Australians and New Zealanders also pay more for the drug (about AU$300 a gram) than those anywhere else in the world, making it a lucrative market.
Drugs come into Australia through a range of means including cargo ships, cruise ships and air freight. But given the tight security measures involved in air travel, sailing the drugs through the Pacific has become an increasingly profitable and popular way for dealers to get drugs to the destination.
Because of this, some of the larger Pacific nations are starting to see serious cocaine and methamphetamine addiction, as well as associated gang violence, crime and police corruption.
It is a problem these Pacific nations are ill-equipped to handle. There is no data collected in Fiji about drug use or addiction for example. There is no rehab centre in Fiji, no methadone clinic, no addiction health specialists, not even a Narcotics Anonymous meeting to be found.
“This is probably the fight of our generation, we lose this now, we are gone,” says Tevita Tupou, operations manager for the Oceania Customs Organisation.
A South Pacific Drug Highway is Causing Big Problems for Island Communities, VICE, Gavin Butler, 3 July 2019
The new drug highway: Pacific islands at centre of cocaine trafficking boom, The Guardian, Kate Lyons, 24 June 2019
Deep Sea Mining in the PacificMarch 23, 2023
In mid-January 2023 the French Parliament voted to ban deep-sea mining in its waters, in a move against the controversial practice. Deep-sea mining uses heavy...
Tricia Gemmell’s Speech for the Avila book launch of ‘In Her Voice’March 16, 2023
I want to thank you all for coming here tonight to celebrate with us, not just the publication of In Her Voice, but the whole journey that Australian Women Preach...
A RETURN TO TRADITIONAL FOOD?September 19, 2022
The dangers of too much dependence on imported food are currently being felt through consequences of the Ukraine war. Many countries imported wheat from Ukraine....
Pacific Island Countries Combating Plastic PollutionJuly 19, 2022
Pacific Islanders depend on the ocean for their food and livelihood. These small island countries are surrounded by oceans. The Pacific Island countries are...
CONTROL THE VAMPIRE COMPANIES!July 7, 2022
Oxfam’s Annual Report 2022, World Inequality, warns that 240 million more people are likely to fall into extreme poverty and face dire hunger because of the...
“one small step for women… one giant leap for herstory…”June 20, 2022
There is a little known story in the book of Numbers, chapter 27. The five daughters of Zelophehad dared to ask for an inheritance they felt was rightly theirs....
HIGH LEVEL REGIONAL POLITICAL GROUP ON DEEP SEA MINING LAUNCHEDJune 16, 2022
“As Pacific Leaders and custodians of this vast ocean, we are obliged to preserve the ocean for the sake of future generations and for all living and non-living...
BUILDING WOMEN’S CAPACITY FOR A MORE SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEMMay 12, 2022
Agribusiness companies try to convince farmers to use chemical pesticides, claiming it makes the work easier and helps to produce higher yields. What they don’t...
DEBT AND BIODIVERSITYMay 12, 2022
According to the Third World Network, addressing debt is crucial to halting biodiversity loss. Longstanding economic pressures have been, and are, pushing...