KIRIBATI: Tier 2 Watch List
Kiribati is a source country for girls subjected to sex trafficking within the country. Visiting ship crew members, mainly Asian men, exploit children and some women in commercial sex. A local NGO reported as many as 20 I-Kiribati girls, some as young as 15 years old, may be subject to child sex trafficking in local bars and hotels. Some I-Kiribati—including family members of potential victims, older women, and hotel and bar workers—may facilitate child sex trafficking by providing a venue for commercial sex with minors. Others fail to assist trafficking victims or alert authorities to situations of child sex trafficking. These girls generally receive financial support, food, alcohol, or goods in exchange for sexual services.
The Government of Kiribati does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these measures, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Kiribati is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. During the reporting period, the government conducted anti-trafficking training for police and welfare officials, conducted outreach programs on sexual violence and exploitation, and developed counselling guidelines for schools to enhance the protection of minors. While the government enacted the Employment and Industrial Relations Act, criminalizing the trafficking of children, it assigned penalties that were not sufficiently stringent for the crime. The government did not prosecute cases against potential traffickers or punish those who exploited or facilitated the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The government also did not employ procedures to proactively identify child sex trafficking victims, particularly among individuals in prostitution. It did not provide assistance to any victims or refer them to or support organizations that did so.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR KIRIBATI:
Investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish foreign crew members for the commercial sexual exploitation of children; ensure anti-trafficking laws criminalize the full scope of labor and sex trafficking, are not limited to cross-border movement, and prescribe penalties commensurate with other serious crimes; develop procedures for law enforcement officers and social service providers to interview women and children intercepted en route to or aboard international vessels, and at local bars and hotels, for evidence of trafficking; establish formal procedures for the identification of trafficking victims and their referral to domestic violence and sexual offense officers for care; train front-line officers, including law enforcement, on victim identification techniques and interview procedures, and a victim-centered approach to facilitate increased trust between victims and officers; hold parents and guardians accountable—including under the 2013 Children, Young People and Family Welfare Act—for inducing children to engage in commercial sex acts; expand efforts to raise awareness about human trafficking in locations where perpetrators are known to seek potential victims; and focus on increasing public recognition that children in the commercial sex trade are trafficking victims rather than juvenile delinquents.
The government made limited law enforcement efforts to combat human trafficking. The Measures to Combat Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime Act, as amended in 2008, criminalizes certain forms of human trafficking, prescribing penalties of up to 15 years’ imprisonment for the trafficking of adults and 20 years’ imprisonment for the trafficking of children. These penalties are sufficiently stringent, but not commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The law defines trafficking as a transnational offense, requiring the entry of a person into Kiribati or any other State. Transnational trafficking is not known to occur in Kiribati or affect I-Kiribati. The government claimed internal trafficking could be prosecuted under this law; however, the statute does not appear to reach domestic crimes of exploitation, and there are no reports to indicate the government has ever attempted to prosecute a domestic trafficking case under the law. During the reporting period, the government passed and signed into law the Employment and Industrial Relations Act, which, for the first time, in parts XIII and XIV, specifically criminalizes the trafficking of children, including, respectively, both the use, procuring, or offering of a child for prostitution, the production of pornography and other similar offenses, and forced labor. For the prostitution and related offenses, the law imposes a $5,000 fine, 10 years’ imprisonment, or both; for forced labor, the penalty is a fine of $100,000, a term of imprisonment of 25 years; or both. Although the law does criminalize both forms of child trafficking consistent with how those crimes are defined in international law, because the penalties include the possibility of a fine in lieu of prison time, they are not proportionate to the crime committed and not sufficiently stringent. In addition, the sanction for sex trafficking of children is not substantially similar to the sanction for other serious crimes, such as rape.
The government did not conduct any investigations in 2015, compared to zero investigations in 2014 and two investigations conducted against foreign fishing vessel owners in 2013. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses.
The government made no discernible efforts to protect trafficking victims, and did not identify or assist any victims in 2015. The government remained without procedures to identify trafficking victims proactively among vulnerable populations. Police may have encountered girls exploited by sex traffickers and clients in well-known meeting places, such as bars and hotels in Kiribati; however, officials did not formally screen this population and did not identify any trafficking victims among them or provide them with any protective or rehabilitative services. The government reported victims could be referred to religious organizations to access medical and psychological services on an ad hoc basis; however, for the fourth consecutive year, it failed to refer any victims to such services or provide funding to these organizations. The Measures to Combat Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime Act’s victim protection provisions shield victims from prosecution for immigration crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; however, law enforcement efforts to combat prostitution potentially resulted in some trafficking victims being treated as law violators, for which the anti-trafficking act did not grant reprieve. Officials did not screen individuals detained for prostitution-related crimes to determine whether they were trafficking victims or verify their ages. The government did not develop or implement a referral process to transfer potential victims who are detained, arrested, or placed in protective custody by law enforcement authorities to institutions that provide short- or long-term care. The Kiribati Immigration Ordinance gives the principal immigration officer the option to make exceptions or extensions to standard immigration rules in exigent circumstances, such as trafficking; given the lack of identified foreign victims, this provision remained unused.
The government made limited efforts to prevent human trafficking. The government lacked a national action plan or a government agency to coordinate national anti-trafficking efforts. The Ministry of Women, Youth, and Social Affairs, in partnership with an international organization, continued to broadcast a radio show on child protection issues, including the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The police department’s domestic violence and sexual offenses unit continued to operate two 24-hour hotlines for reporting exploitation and abuse, although no known allegations of human trafficking were received. The government did not make efforts to address child sex tourism in the country or reduce the demand for commercial sex or forced labor. While foreign fishing license regulations hold ship captains accountable for the presence of unauthorized persons on their vessels, the enforcement of these regulations did not result in the prosecution of traffickers or protection of victims. The Ministry of Labor reported reviewing the contracts of all I-Kiribati going overseas and conducting pre-departure briefings to ensure workers were aware of their rights and able to protect themselves from potential forced labor. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel.