Australia’s High Commissioner to Vanuatu, Jeremy Bruer, has reaffirmed the Government of Australia’s pledge to stand by Vanuatu in the country’s reconstruction stage following the devastating effects of Tropical Cyclone Pam.

Speaking at the handing over of equipment to assist the Departments of Customs and Inland Revenue (CIR) and Immigration (Vanuatu Immigration Service), Friday morning, High Commissioner Bruer said the Government of Australia was glad to assist Vanuatu after Cyclone Pam with it the country’s rebuilding program.

He said so far the Government of Australia’s assistance to Vanuatu for relief and reconstruction after Cyclone Pam has reached Vt4.1 billion, and this has gone to assist in the priority areas of health, education and infrastructure.

At the ceremony at the Vanuatu Police College in Port Vila, the Australian High Commissioner handed over the assistance package that comprised of two vehicles, computers, printers and other equipment valued at approximately Vt48 million to the Directors of Customs and Immigration. Funding for the equipment from the Government of Australia was provided through the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

At the invitation of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) an operational damage assessment was carried out by IOM, to determine the extent of the TC Pam damage to Customs (CIR) and Immigration’s (VIS) operational capabilities. The report helped to target this assistance where it was it was needed most.

CIR and VIS suffered substantial damages to their physical and systemic structures. VIS has been forced to relocate to a new site. The Tanna offices of both agencies were destroyed and through DIBP assistance, materials for a new joint office will be provided and a new office constructed through cost-sharing arrangement with the Vanuatu Government.

The full assistance package was for replacement of destroyed vehicles, computers, printers, immigration office relocation costs, document retrieval and examination, compliance, audit and operational inspection costs throughout Vanuatu, repair of the Customs X-Ray machine at Bauerfield airport – Port Vila, equipment at ports and airports and joint agency training.

Vanuatu has witnessed increased transnational criminal activities of all sorts including trafficking and smuggling of people and goods, and money laundering in recent years. To help stem this tide, Australia and Vanuatu have been cooperating to improve the border system since 2011 through the Migration and Border Capacity Improvement Program (MBCIP) that is managed by IOM.

On behalf of IOM, Dr. Lesi Korovavala acknowledged the strong commitment of Australia and Vanuatu (who are both members of IMO) to the MBCIP.

“I thank the High Commissioner for availing himself to present this substantial assistance package today and his continuing support of the MBCIP as a whole”.

“The appropriateness and timeliness of this assistance is vital to the national economy and security as well as regional security,” he added.

The Acting Director General of Finance and Economic Management, and Director of CIR, Noel Malas, on behalf of the two government agencies, expressed their heartfelt gratitude to the Australian High Commissioner for the assistance from the Government and people of Australia.

Jonas Cullwick, a former General Manager of VBTC is now a Senior Journalist with the Daily Post. Contact: jonas@dailypost.vu. Cell # 678 5460922

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