Citation(s) from the literature library

Alpers, Philip and Conor Twyford. 2003 ‘Papua New Guinea: Importation routes.’ Small Arms in the Pacific; Occasional Paper No. 8, p. 21. Geneva: Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva. 31 March

Relevant contents

The illicit trade in Papua New Guinea appears to be fed to a significant extent by illegal imports, although no official estimates exist…

1. Across the Torres Strait: One route that has been the subject of sustained media attention is the narrow stretch of island-dotted sea between Australia's Cape York Peninsula and the town of Daru, in Papua New Guinea's Western Province (see Saunders, 2000; The Australian, 2000). The large number of islands in the Torres Strait, their remote location, communication difficulties, and the length of coastline make it very difficult for authorities to comprehensively monitor the border. In addition, over 20,000 border crossings are made each year by local residents (Keelty, 2000, p. 76).

2. Certainly there is evidence of some trade in drugs for arms. In January 2002, for instance, Papua New Guinean police busted a small arms smuggling ring in Daru, capturing a bolt-action rifle, a handful of .22 pistols, an SKS semi-automatic rifle, and a Russian-made AK-47.(24) Australian border authorities have also intercepted small numbers of handguns, rifles, semi-automatic firearms, and shotguns en route to Papua New Guinea. Seizures have included an air rifle worth USD 80 being exchanged for three kilograms of cannabis worth USD 12,000, and two rifles, a magazine, ammunition, and USD 350 swapped for ten kilograms of cannabis (Saunders, 2000).

Overall, however, the volume of both gun and drug smuggling across the Torres Strait appears to be low. A 2000 Australian Federal Police submission to a parliamentary inquiry investigating Coastwatch, Australia's Customs border monitoring service, described Papua New Guinea/Torres Strait drug-running operations as 'ad hoc, opportunistic and unsophisticated, albeit effective' (Saunders, 2000).

While there have been occasional seizures of smuggled military-style weapons, the number of firearms imported into Papua New Guinea via the Torres Strait is not believed to be high, and seems limited to small numbers of handguns, shotguns, and .22 rifles.

ID: Q697

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