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2017-2021 ARCHIVED CONTENT

You are viewing ARCHIVED CONTENT released online from January 20, 2017 to January 20, 2021.

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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 advancing its first two trafficking prosecutions initiated in the previous reporting period with one resulting in a conviction. 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, continued to exacerbate the government’s slow response to trafficking cases. Victim protection services remained inadequate, and the government did not develop urgently needed standard operating procedures for victim identification. While courts convicted a trafficker, they did not sentence him to serious penalties, instead deporting and barring him from re-entry for 20 years. The Labor Division did not conduct systematic monitoring and inspection activities at logging operation sites or in the fishing or mining sectors. Although officials jointly conducted and participated in some anti-trafficking training activities with assistance from an international organization, the government did not implement any anti-trafficking training in the standard law enforcement curriculum.

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 comprehensive 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, including among remote logging communities.Increase funding to relevant ministries to implement the national action plan for combating trafficking in persons.Ratify existing forestry legislation to include minimum social safeguards and child protection policies.Accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

PROSECUTION

The government maintained its 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 ($5,580), 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 ($11,160), 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. Authorities continued to charge some trafficking cases under criminal statutes carrying lesser penalties. In coordination with a regional body, the government continued to review the Immigration Act in an effort to identify gaps in trafficking-specific provisions, among others.

The government reported opening two new trafficking investigations involving four alleged perpetrators and five potential victims during the reporting period, a decrease from six investigations in 2018. Authorities continued investigations initiated in the previous reporting period, including two sex trafficking investigations involving at least four suspects and three forced labor cases involving an unspecified number of suspects. However, at the end of the reporting period, the investigations had not led to prosecutions. Courts concluded separate prosecutions initiated in 2017 against two foreign nationals for subjecting Solomon Islander children to sex trafficking in logging camps. In June 2019, the court convicted a Japanese national under article 144(3) of the Penal Code Sexual Offences Act, 2016; the individual was deported and restricted from re-entry for 20 years. In December 2019, the court acquitted a Malaysian national of all trafficking-related charges initially filed under Section 77 of the Immigration Act due to insufficient evidence. In both cases the government also reported investigating the victims’ parents for allegedly engaging in and benefiting from their exploitation but did not advance the cases to prosecution due to concern over lack of alternative care options and services for victims. The Department of Immigration (DOI) deported two alleged Malaysian traffickers due to “character concerns,” after investigators were reportedly unable to gather sufficient evidence to initiate a formal prosecution.

The government did not include comprehensive anti-trafficking training in the curriculum for law enforcement officials, despite recommendations to do so. In partnership with an international organization, DOI 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. Geographic challenges, 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, particularly in remote areas of the country, continued to exacerbate the government’s slow response to trafficking cases. In addition, observers ascribed a higher likelihood of acquittals and dismissals of such cases to backlogs in court, incomplete investigations, insufficient evidence, and safety concerns among victims and their families. 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. Authorities did not report investigating, prosecuting, or convicting any government officials for complicity in trafficking offenses.

PROTECTION

The government decreased efforts to protect trafficking victims. Key stakeholder agencies relied upon disparate victim identification and referral processes. The Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) continued to implement a victim identification and referral system it developed in a prior reporting period, and immigration officials maintained separate standard operating procedures for the identification and protection of victims. An international organization provided training on victim identification and assistance to an unspecified number of law enforcement officials; a high-level government official facilitated portions of the training. The government reported identifying five trafficking victims—a significant decrease from 39 in 2018—but some or all of them may have been victims of other forms of abuse. In prior years, authorities had not identified any cases of internal sex trafficking, despite its prevalence throughout the country; the government did not report what types of exploitation the five victims experienced. Authorities referred the individuals to support services through an international organization, but the victims reportedly declined services.

The government provided 403,250 Solomon Islands dollars ($50,000) to fund investigations, public awareness, and victim protection and assistance from DOI’s budget, an increase compared with 308,000 Solomon Islands dollars ($38,190) for shelter services and victim care in 2018. The government did not provide trafficking-specific services; however, the Royal Solomon Islands Police operated a domestic violence shelter in Honiara that could also provide services to adult women and children sex trafficking victims. The government did not provide shelter services for victims of labor trafficking or male victims. These insufficiencies likely discouraged some victims from testifying in court proceedings, thereby hindering prosecutorial progress.

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. In the absence of systematized identification and referral procedures, victims were more susceptible to penalization for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit. Authorities may have arrested and prosecuted sex trafficking victims for commercial sex 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 could 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 government created a revised version of its National Action Plan (NAP) against Human Trafficking and People Smuggling 2020-2025. The new NAP contained provisions aimed at preparing the government to accede to and ratify the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its supplementary protocols; however, the government did not report implementing the NAP by the end of the reporting period. The DOI initiated a process to reform its trafficking awareness programs by integrating them with the community policing program; the integration was ongoing at the end of the reporting period. In partnership with the Solomon Islands Forestry Association, DOI reportedly increased cooperation with private companies to create and implement awareness-raising campaigns targeting 12 communities in the Choiseul province; the campaign focused on victim identification, prevention, and support for community stakeholders and civil society. In 2019, one study conducted by an international organization found that more than 85 percent of Solomon Islanders living in communities in Isabel and Makira provinces had not heard the term “human trafficking” before; for those that had, the newspaper was the most cited source.

The government developed a set of operational guidelines for immigration and law enforcement officials to implement the Immigration Act. Unlike in prior years, the Labor Division did not report conducting any monitoring and inspection activities at logging operations or in the fishing or mining sectors. Forestry officials reported a lack of legislation and industry regulation outlining child protection and social safeguards prevented them from detecting and investigating potential abuses, including trafficking, related to logging operations’ impact on local communities. The government continued 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. The government did not report taking action to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. An interagency business monitoring committee was tasked with monitoring, inspecting, and investigating breaches of labor laws; however, no comprehensive measures were taken during the reporting period to address the prevalence of forced labor in supply chains or effectively enforce constitutional law.

In the previous 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 an international organization previously recommended as a way to better understand and address trafficking vulnerabilities throughout the 900 islands within the country’s diffuse maritime territory. Authorities reported an ongoing process to update this registration program through a centralized electronic system. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel. An international organization, in cooperation with the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Services, conducted a migration and mobility research study that included a focus on trafficking. The Solomon Islands was not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in the Solomon Islands, and traffickers exploit victims from the Solomon Islands abroad. Traffickers subject local, South Asian, and Southeast Asian men and women to forced labor and sex trafficking 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 Solomon Islands and upon arrival are forced or coerced into commercial sex. Labor traffickers exploit men from Indonesia and Malaysia in the logging, fishing, and mining industries. Fishermen from Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, North 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. The inflow of a cash economic system, coupled with the continuation of an unregulated logging industry, has increased vulnerability to trafficking in remote communities, specifically for women and children. Contacts have observed a recent increase in transactional sex—and a concomitant uptick in sexual abuse, including sex trafficking—resulting from certain economic changes. Family members are often the facilitators of such transactional agreements. Some official corruption—especially in relation to facilitating irregular migration and involvement in the fishing and forestry sectors—may enable trafficking. Some boys, girls, and young women are recruited for domestic work and subsequently exploited in commercial sex 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 benefit financially from these arrangements. Mining and logging camp leadership reportedly force boys to serve as solairs—illicit brokers procuring girls for sexual and domestic service 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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