The Pacific region is the destination for large hauls of cocaine and crystal methamphetamines. The low cost South American drugs have found its price in Australia and New Zealand, with a spill-over effect in smaller island nations such as Fiji and Solomon Islands.
In recent times, Pacific countries have witnessed significant increase in crime, increased instances of sex in exchange for drugs and increased drug use. The Guardian said the criminal landscape has developed much faster than the response by the Pacific and its partners including the emergence of regional indigenous criminal syndicates capitalizing on this upcoming local market.
Experts have sounded alarm that unless respective authorities take control of the situation, governance will be impacted and this will enable corruption and cripple the region’s flourishing tourism industry. Moreover, trade through the Pacific is causing grave social harm in island nations including Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, which now have domestic markets for the drugs and are suffering from addiction, corruption and violence.
Jose Sousa-Santos, managing director of Strategika Group, says the region is emerging as the ‘Crystal Road’ – the illicit corridor for narcotics, particularly crystal meth and cocaine from Asia and Central and South America via the Pacific to the Australian and New Zealand markets. Jose said Australia and New Zealand need to take responsibility and partner with Pacific Island states to take decisive strategic action. “They need to support the development of inter-Pacific island law enforcement and customs operations and responses; and have greater understanding of the role traditional power structures have in creating and sustaining resilience.” Jose said Australia and New Zealand cannot afford to simply triage the Pacific by focusing on the symptoms, the root causes must be addressed. A retired police commissioner of New South Wales – Australia, Andrew Scipione told Time Magazine that the magnitude of Australia’s meth crisis is recognized as ‘unique’ by global law enforcers. Scipione said the land down under’s ice epidemic lie in a confluence of market forces, cost culture and geography. He said their closeness to China, in terms of route and geography, has made Australia vulnerable.
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According to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute the neighboring regions of East and Southeast Asia are among the highest producers of amphetamine-style substances, along with India; China has the largest number of clandestine ice labs in the Asia-Pacific region and is the source of the most such drugs in Australia.
A major contributing factor to drugs in Australia is the ‘price’ with experts saying the price paid for meth in Australia is among the highest in the world. And this has caught the attention of traffickers and dealers.