“They deport them to the region,” Henry Puna says. “That's where the problems arise and so we need really as leaders to look at the problem in depth and work out how to address them.”
It comes as 26 Chinese nationals appear in court in Tonga on gambling and firearms charges. The Pacific is grappling with widespread transnational crime, and New Zealand is backing efforts for urgent action.
In a separate Tongan police raid, 10 high-powered weapons and 20,000 bullets were seized.
The Cook Islands is developing its own national security policy strengthening its economy and borders.
“We have been looking at new sources for labourers to bring into our country to service our growing economy so the need to be vigilant in terms of border control is very critical," Prime Minister Puna told TVNZ.
Samoa's Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi, agreed. It was an issue affecting all of the Pacific, he warned.
“The major problem affecting all of us is our capacity to detect criminals coming into our countries and also security on movements of drugs between countries,” he said.
Tonga, facing a meth crisis, has asked the Pacific Forum for help with a national drugs policy. There are also calls to form a regional drug enforcement agency.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told TVNZ she was keen to support the efforts.
“If we need to put a little more energy behind it I'd be very willing to do that because it affects us all. We are increasingly seeing transnational crime so I’d be happy to support that,” she said.