The COVID-19 pandemic has been one the most significant global threats in modern times, introducing several challenges for border officials in trying to contain its spread. In response, PIDC Special General Meeting in 2020, endorsed the establishment of the PIDC COVID-19 Support Programme, recognizing that the impacts of COVID-19 has been sudden and that many PIDC Members had limited resources to respond effectively.
PIDC COVID-19 Support Programme provide support its Members through the following core activities:
1. Building communication capacity of PIDC Members through the provision upon request of a Communication Package to assist Members in adapting to the new virtual communication reality;
2. Support Members to develop tailored Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and suporting training curriculums and modules that incorporate COVID-19 measures; and
3. Assist Members in meeting any operational gaps to implement the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway-COVID-19 (PHP-C) and provision of Person Protective Equipment (PPE) where required.
Australia provided PIDC with a total fund of AUD500,000 to implement the Programme for 24 months. The Secretariat recruited a Programme Officer to coordinate the Programme's implementation in November 2020, Since then, the Secretariat has provided support and engaged with 15 PIDC Members.
With the outbreak of COVID-19, the need to support PIDC Members to adjust to longer-term challenges in areas such as direct communication, virtual delivery assistance and shortage of resources was evident. In response, the COVID-19 Support Programme offers a one-off injection of resources to support PIDC Members adjust to the new communication realities, where virtual delivery of technical assistance and meetings were required for effective communication. The Communication Package offered includes:
1. Two laptops;
2. Two Microsoft Office software;
3. Two Anti-virus software for 12 months;
4. One teleconference camera with microphone capability
5. One projector;
6. One UPS;
7. Internet data package for 12 months; and
8. Two Zoom licenses for each PIDC Member.
The final package composition for each Member varies on Members' prioritized needs to support modernizing their online and video conferencing capacity.
Fiji Immigration Department
Personal Protective equipment (PPE) was one of the key resources required by border authorities to safely operate at the borders and minimize the spread of the virus. Although PPE were being supplied from national health authorities, the majority of the Members engaged under the programme requested backup PPE stock specifically for Immigration Office use. The Secretariat provided PPE to 14 Members allowing them to continue with immigration formalities adjusted for COVID-19 outbreak realities and at the same time protecting people traveling and their front liners.
Nauru Immigration Department Samoa Immigration Department
PIDC is a member of the Regional Taskforce (RTF) that was set up to operationalize the PHP-C. The PHP-C was established by the Pacific Island Forum under the Biketawa Declaration during a Special Session of the Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting (FFMM) in April 2020. The PHP-C facilitates the movement of disaster relief personnel and goods to support Pacific Island Countries and Territories combat COVD-19.
PIDC at PIFS’s request, drafted the regional immigration protocols (which were based on and referenced the PIDC Model Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), which were finalized and endorsed by the RTF and subsequently by the Forum Foreign Ministers’ Ministerial Action Group (MAG) meeting in June 2020.
More information about PHP-C and updates visit : https://www.forumsec.org/covid-19-updates-from-the-secretariat/
Operation Akamau is an initiative established in partnership between PIDC, Oceania Customs Organisation (OCO), and the Australia Border Force to support PIDC Members operationalize PHP-C and meet their national border protection responsibilities. Short-term technical assistance is provided to Members through policy advice, COVID-19 related equipment, and training as prioritized by Members.