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2017-2021 ARCHIVED CONTENT

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SOLOMON ISLANDS: Tier 2

The Government of the Solomon Islands does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore the Solomon Islands remained on Tier 2. These efforts included investigating more alleged incidents of trafficking, identifying more victims than in prior years, and advancing its first trafficking prosecution initiated in the previous reporting period. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. General lack of awareness of the crime and applicable legislation among front-line officers, coupled with under-resourced protection services and widespread observance of informal justice models, exacerbated the government’s slow response to trafficking cases. Reports of official complicity in trafficking continued, and authorities identified few cases of internal sex trafficking despite its prevalence throughout the country. Although officials jointly conducted and participated in some awareness-raising activities with assistance from international organizations, the government did not initiate or conduct any anti-trafficking training for law enforcement.

PRIORITIZED RECOMMENDATIONS

Investigate and prosecute both sex trafficking and labor trafficking offenses and convict and punish traffickers, including complicit officials, with dissuasive prison sentences. • Amend the Immigration Act to remove sentencing provisions that allow fines in lieu of imprisonment for sex trafficking offenses occurring outside Solomon Islands. • Increase efforts to identify Solomon Islander and foreign victims of sex trafficking and labor trafficking within the country, including in agriculture, the fishing, logging, and mining industries, and in relation to illicit commercial activities. • Provide training on trafficking laws and victim identification procedures to immigration officials, law enforcement officers, and social service providers, including at the provincial level. • Increase government support for victim protection, including through the allocation of funding to trafficking-specific shelter services benefiting both male and female victims. • Increase efforts to collect data on trafficking trends in the Solomon Islands and disseminate among interagency anti-trafficking stakeholders. • Institute a campaign to raise public awareness of trafficking. • Increase funding to relevant ministries to implement the national action plan for combating trafficking in persons. • Accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

PROSECUTION

The government increased law enforcement efforts. The penal code, together with the Immigration Act, criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Article 143 of the penal code criminalized child sex trafficking under its “child commercial sexual exploitation” provision and prescribed penalties of up to 15 or 20 years’ imprisonment, based on the child’s age. Article 145 of the penal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking when the offense occurred within the country. Article 145(2) applied to trafficking offenses involving an element of force, fraud, or coercion; it prescribed penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment for offenses involving adult victims and up to 25 years’ imprisonment for offenses involving child victims. Article 145(3) prescribed penalties of up to 15 years’ imprisonment for offenses that did not involve an element of force, fraud, or coercion. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as kidnapping. The Immigration Act criminalized other forms of trafficking, including crimes in which the recruitment, transportation, harboring, or receipt of the trafficking victim occurred outside the Solomon Islands. The Immigration Act prescribed penalties of up to five years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to 45,000 Solomon Islands dollars ($5,800), or both for the trafficking of adults; it prescribed a penalty of up to 10 years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to 90,000 Solomon Islands dollars ($11,610), or both for the trafficking of children. These penalties were sufficiently stringent, but with respect to sex trafficking, by allowing for a fine in lieu of imprisonment, they were not commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious offenses. With technical assistance from an international organization, the government completed a review of the Immigration Act in an effort to identify gaps in the trafficking-specific provisions, among others, but it had taken no further action by the end of the reporting period.

The government reported investigating six potential trafficking cases involving at least six suspects during the reporting period, up from two investigations in 2017. Two cases involving four suspects remained under investigation at the end of the reporting period. Authorities also reported ongoing investigations into three forced labor cases involving an unspecified number of alleged traffickers. Authorities continued prosecutions initiated in 2017 against two foreign nationals for allegedly subjecting Solomon Islands children to sex trafficking in logging camps; these ongoing proceedings, filed under Section 77 of the Immigration Act, represented the country’s first trafficking prosecutions. One of the alleged perpetrators appeared for a preliminary hearing in January 2019 and was referred to the Honiara Central Magistrate for further hearing. The other case was awaiting a court date at the end of the reporting period. Both cases featured tandem investigations into the victims’ parents for allegedly engaging in and benefiting from their exploitation, but authorities did not report the status of those inquiries.

In partnership with two international organizations, the Solomon Islands Immigration Division conducted a joint training for an unspecified number of law enforcement and other anti-trafficking stakeholders on definitions, investigations, and psycho-social care for victims. Insufficient funding of enforcement agencies, lack of technical expertise, and pervasive lack of awareness of the crime and of the relevant legislation among front-line officers continued to exacerbate the government’s slow response to trafficking cases. Traditional justice practices referred to as “customary rule,” often involving retribution or informal restitution arrangements between victims’ families and their traffickers, continued to supplant formal law enforcement efforts and further complicated victims’ access to justice. Despite reports of systemic corruption that may have been permissive of trafficking, especially in relation to irregular migration and the fishing and logging industries, authorities did not investigate, prosecute, or convict any government officials for complicity in trafficking offenses.

PROTECTION

The government increased efforts to protect trafficking victims. The system through which it identifies and refers victims was developed in a prior reporting period under the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) and remained in place during the reporting period. The Immigration Division maintained separate standard operating procedures for victim identification and protection. According to statistics available at the end of the reporting period, the government identified at least 39 victims of trafficking, including 35 Indonesian male labor trafficking victims in the logging industry; three female sex trafficking victims under the age of 18; and one unspecified male victim under the age of 18 (compared with two victims in 2017). Due to the tendency for some officials to conflate human trafficking with smuggling and other abuses, these numbers may include cases that did not involve forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation.

No trafficking-specific services existed in the country; however, the Royal Solomon Islands Police operated a shelter in Honiara for domestic violence victims that could provide services to adult women and children subjected to sex trafficking. Police referred two boys to shelter and psycho-social services through an international religious organization, but the government did not report if these were victims of trafficking or other forms of abuse. The Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs allocated an unspecified amount of funding to support court witnesses, including one child trafficking victim. The government provided a total of 308,000 Solomon Islands dollars ($39,730) to fund investigations, public awareness, and victim protection and assistance from the Immigration Division’s budget, compared with 200,000 Solomon Islands Dollars ($25,800) for shelter services and victim care in 2017. The Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs also provided 500,000 Solomon Islands Dollars ($64,500) primarily for victims of gender-based violence, but this funding was available to trafficking victims as well. A lack of long-term protective services left victims vulnerable to re-trafficking after authorities returned them to their home communities. No specialized shelter services existed for victims of labor trafficking or male victims.

The Immigration Act granted the government authority to provide temporary residence permits for foreign victims to assist police with investigations, and it insulated victims against prosecution for immigration-related crimes traffickers compelled them to commit. However, the government did not report providing these or other services to foreign victims identified during the reporting period, nor did it report providing services to foreign victims identified in previous years. The government did not report if it would extend these protections to victims whose cases were investigated under the penal code. Authorities reported returning all 35 labor trafficking victims identified to Indonesia with the assistance of an international organization. Authorities may have arrested and prosecuted sex trafficking victims for prostitution violations without screening to determine whether they were trafficking victims. Due to lengthy legal processes, fear of retaliation by traffickers or prosecution by police, and a lack of incentives to remain and participate in cases, it was likely some unidentified foreign victims opted to return to their home countries. The government reported trafficking victims were able to seek compensation from their employers through civil suits, although no victims had filed such suits during the reporting period.

PREVENTION

The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The Anti-Human Trafficking Advisory Committee (AHTAC), which included members of the government and civil society, met on a quarterly basis. The AHTAC continued implementation of the Solomon Islands’ 2015-2020 national action plan, including by conducting awareness raising activities for more than 1,000 students, village residents, Provincial Assembly members, and laborers. The Labor Division reported conducting monitoring and inspection activities at two logging operations sites; unlike in prior years, it did not report conducting such oversight in the fishing or mining sectors. The government did not report taking action to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, but it began collaborating with a local chamber of commerce to establish a policy for discouraging abuses in labor-intensive industries, including a component aiming to prevent labor exploitation.

During the reporting period, the MHMS and the Ministry of Home Affairs jointly introduced a civil birth registration program to improve statistical recordkeeping on local populations—a step international organizations had previously recommended as a way to better understand and address trafficking vulnerabilities throughout the 900 islands within the country’s diffuse maritime territory. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel. The Solomon Islands was not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; however, with the assistance of an international organization, the AHTAC established a working group to prepare the government to accede to and ratify the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its supplementary protocols.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers subject domestic and foreign individuals to trafficking in the Solomon Islands, and they subject Solomon Islander individuals to trafficking abroad. Local, South Asian, and Southeast Asian men and women are subjected to forced labor and forced prostitution in the Solomon Islands, and local children are subjected to sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Women from China, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines often pay large recruitment fees for jobs in the Solomon Islands and upon arrival are forced into prostitution. Men from Indonesia and Malaysia are subjected to forced labor in the logging, fishing, and mining industries. Fishermen from Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Fiji have reported situations indicative of labor trafficking, including non-payment of wages, severe living conditions, violence, and limited food supply, on Taiwan-flagged fishing vessels in the Solomon Islands’ territorial waters and ports.

Traffickers subject Solomon Islander children to sex trafficking and forced labor within the country, sometimes in exchange for money or goods, particularly near foreign logging camps, on foreign and local commercial fishing vessels, and at hotels, casinos, nightclubs, and other entertainment establishments. Some official corruption—especially in relation to facilitating irregular migration and involvement in the fishing and forestry sectors—may be permissive of trafficking. Some boys, girls, and young women are recruited for domestic work and subsequently exploited in prostitution at logging camps. Under informal justice practices referred to as “customary rules,” parents frequently receive payments for sending young women and girls into forced marriages with foreign workers at logging and mining companies, where many of them are exploited in domestic servitude or sex trafficking. Often these payments are rendered after the victims escape or are returned home as informal restitution brokered by local leadership. In this way, local community leaders may also be benefiting financially from these arrangements. Mining and logging camp leadership reportedly force boys to serve as solairs—illicit brokers procuring girls for sexual and domestic servitude in worker lodging facilities—and logging camp personnel force young males to work as domestic servants and cooks. Following the government’s decision to cease issuance of new logging licenses, a decline in the industry has contributed to an increase in internal economic migration of communities located in former logging areas; these displaced communities may be at higher risk of sex trafficking and forced labor. Elsewhere, Solomon Islander children may be subjected to forced labor in the agricultural sector, forced harvesting of seafood, and forced criminality in the manufacturing and transportation of drugs and in pickpocketing. To pay off debts, some parents reportedly sell their children to other families via “informal adoption” that often involves forced labor or sexual servitude. Traffickers also use the Solomon Islands as a transit point to subject foreign individuals to trafficking in other countries.

U.S. Department of State

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