SOLOMON ISLANDS: Tier 2 Watch List
The Solomon Islands is a source, transit, and destination country for local and Southeast Asian men and women subjected to forced labor and forced prostitution, and local children subjected to sex and labor trafficking. Women from China, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines are recruited for legitimate work, some paying large sums of money in recruitment fees, and upon arrival, are forced into prostitution. Men from Indonesia and Malaysia are recruited to work in logging and mining industries and some are subsequently subjected to forced labor in industrial camps. Fishing crew members from Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Fiji have reported situations indicative of human 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.
Local children are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor within the country, sometimes in exchange for money or fish, particularly near foreign logging camps, on foreign and local commercial fishing vessels, and at hotels and entertainment establishments. Some parents receive payments for sending young women and girls into forced marriages with foreign workers at logging and mining companies; some of them are exploited in domestic servitude and prostitution. Local boys and girls are put up for “informal adoption” by their families in order to pay off debts; some are subjected to sexual servitude by the adopted family or guardians, or forced labor as domestic servants. Boys are forced to work as domestic servants and cooks in logging camps.
The Government of the Solomon Islands does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting period, the government finalized and published guidelines on the identification, referral, and treatment of transnational trafficking victims, and it allocated funding for implementation of activities outlined in the 2015-2020 national action plan on human trafficking and people smuggling. Authorities identified 15 foreign labor trafficking victims and referred them to organizations to receive temporary shelter. Despite these measures, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Solomon Islands is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a fourth consecutive year. Per the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, Solomon Islands was granted a waiver from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 because its government has devoted sufficient resources to a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute significant efforts to meet the minimum standards. The government did not provide additional services for trafficking victims or prosecute or convict any traffickers. Authorities did not make efforts to identify victims or investigate cases involving internal trafficking offenses or the forced prostitution of foreign women.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE SOLOMON ISLANDS:
Investigate and prosecute both sex and labor trafficking offenses, and convict and punish traffickers; amend relevant laws to criminally prohibit all forms of human trafficking and to give prosecutors more authority and restrict judges’ ability to offer fines in lieu of prison time; continue and increase efforts to identify trafficking victims among foreign workers, including those in the fishing, logging, and mining industries, and adopt and implement proactive procedures to identify victims of sex trafficking and internal trafficking; increase government support for victim services, including through the allocation of funding; institute a campaign to raise public awareness of human trafficking; provide training for immigration officials, law enforcement officers, and social service providers, including at the provincial level; implement the draft national action plan for combating trafficking in persons; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
The government demonstrated limited progress in anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, but did not prosecute or convict any traffickers. The immigration act prohibits and punishes transnational forms of trafficking in persons and prescribes a penalty of up to five years’ imprisonment or a fine of up to 45,000 penalty units ($5,700), or both for the trafficking of adults; it prescribes a penalty of up to 10 years’ imprisonment or a fine of up to 90,000 penalty units ($111,500), or both for the trafficking of children. These penalties are not sufficiently stringent, due to the option of paying a fine, and are not commensurate with penalties for other serious offenses, such as rape. The law also prohibits and punishes the withholding of travel or identity documents for the purpose of facilitating human trafficking; the penalty is imprisonment not exceeding two years, a fine of up to 20,000 penalty units ($2,500), or both. During the reporting period, the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs Commission updated a draft amendment to the penal code (Sexual Offenses Bill) that, if approved, would define and prohibit some forms of internal trafficking and prescribe sufficiently stringent penalties.
There were no prosecutions or convictions of trafficking offenses. The immigration division led multiagency monitoring and investigation operations at logging companies and, through these efforts, identified two suspected cases of forced labor. Authorities referred one of these cases to the director of public prosecutions; however, prosecutors did not determine by the end of the reporting period whether there is sufficient evidence to move the case to trial. The government hosted trainings on human trafficking, funded and delivered by a foreign donor. Lack of adequate human resources and sufficient expertise in evidence collection continued to hinder effective law enforcement efforts to combat trafficking. The government did not conduct any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses.
The government made modest efforts to protect trafficking victims. In December 2015, the government finalized and published guidelines on the identification, referral, and treatment of transnational trafficking victims, although no such procedures existed for internal victims. Through its monitoring and investigation activities of logging companies, the immigration division identified 15 adult male victims from Indonesia and Malaysia exploited in transnational labor trafficking and referred them to international and local organizations to receive temporary accommodation; such effort represents an increase from no victims identified in 2014. A government agency provided temporary accommodation to an unknown number of victims, but the government continued to rely primarily on civil society organizations to provide limited services to victims of human trafficking on an ad hoc basis. NGOs reported providing services to two individuals who may have been victims of internal trafficking. No trafficking-specific services existed in the country.
The government has the authority to provide temporary residence permits—valid for up to three months—to allow foreign victims to assist the police in investigations. Due to lengthy legal processes and a lack of incentives to remain and participate in cases, most identified victims opted to return to their home countries, which hindered prosecutions. The government coordinated the repatriation of 10 victims, and an international organization facilitated the repatriation of four victims. One victim remained in the country; it is unclear whether the government assisted him in obtaining the necessary legal documents to do so. The government reported victims were able to seek compensation from their traffickers through civil suits, although no trafficking victims have ever filed such suits. The law protects trafficking victims from prosecution for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking, such as illegal entry into the country, illegal residency or procurement, or possession of a false identity document; however, this protection does not extend to victims of trafficking crimes that are not defined in Solomon Islands law. Thus, women in prostitution may have been repeatedly arrested and prosecuted during the year without efforts by officials to determine whether they were trafficking victims.
The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The Trafficking in Persons Advisory Committee met on a quarterly basis to coordinate anti-trafficking activities, and the government allocated funding for implementation of activities outlined in the 2015-2020 national action plan on human trafficking and people smuggling. In December 2015, authorities conducted a public lecture to raise awareness of human trafficking, with support from an international organization; this marked the first government-organized public awareness event. The government took no action to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel. The Solomon Islands is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.