Fiji

Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Tier 2

FIJI: Tier 2

The Government of Fiji does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Fiji remained on Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by identifying nine trafficking victims, investigating five trafficking cases, prosecuting three alleged traffickers, and conducting awareness campaigns targeted at children, parents, and Fijians working overseas. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government did not convict any traffickers or proactively implement formal victim identification or referral procedures. Despite reporting an increase in child sex trafficking, the government only identified one victim.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FIJI

Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and punish traffickers; develop and strengthen formal procedures for proactive victim identification, especially among vulnerable groups, such as foreign migrant workers on fishing vessels, those allegedly involved in prostitution, and exploited children; institute additional trainings for law enforcement, immigration officers, and labor inspectors on victim identification and protection; designate a government agency responsible for coordinating victim services; enhance efforts to provide access to interpretation services and legal, medical, and psychological assistance to victims; make efforts to allow identified trafficking victims to work and earn income while assisting with investigations; increase dissemination of anti-trafficking awareness campaigns directed at both families that may send children to live in cities and clients of prostitution; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

PROSECUTION

The government maintained modest law enforcement efforts but did not convict any traffickers for the second year in a row. The 2009 Crimes Decree includes provisions that prohibit all forms of trafficking. The prescribed penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment and possible fines of up to 100,000 Fijian dollars ($48,239) are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes. The police anti-trafficking unit investigated five new cases (the same number as in 2015); four involved labor trafficking and one child sex trafficking. Two cases investigated in 2015 were closed due to insufficient evidence and three remained under investigation. The government initiated prosecutions of three alleged traffickers in two cases during the reporting period, compared to none in 2015. In one case, the defendant allegedly confiscated the passport of a Filipino man he recruited to work at his business. In the second case, two defendants allegedly confiscated the passport of a Bangladeshi man they brought to Fiji under false promises of work and demanded payment for it to be returned; it was unclear if this case involved exploitation in forced labor. The government provided information to New Zealand authorities to assist in the investigation of a Fijian national who was subsequently prosecuted and convicted of subjecting 15 Fijians to forced labor in New Zealand. During the reporting period, a Fijian court overturned the convictions of four men convicted in 2013 for trafficking offenses. The government continued to fund anti-trafficking training for new police recruits. The police anti-trafficking unit did not dedicate adequate resources to trafficking investigations and training, and prosecutors often did not respond to police requests for guidance on trafficking cases in a timely manner. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses.

PROTECTION

The government maintained modest efforts to identify and protect victims. The police anti-trafficking unit identified nine trafficking victims, a decrease from 13 victims identified in 2015. Eight victims were foreign nationals subjected to labor trafficking. Despite reporting an increase in the number of male and female victims of child sex trafficking, officials identified only one victim during the reporting period. The foreign victims were referred to government safe houses prior to returning to their country of origin and police did not pursue additional support for the child victim after the victim withdrew from the case. Police officials reported using informal guidelines to identify potential trafficking victims, but did not conduct training for labor inspectors on these guidelines as was done in the past. Authorities did not proactively identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable populations, such as women in prostitution and crew members who transit through Fijian ports on board vessels. The lack of proactive screening may have resulted in punishment of unidentified trafficking victims for actions they took as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking. Further, there is no legal alternative to foreign victims’ removal to countries in which they would face retribution or hardship. The government did not develop a mechanism to refer victims to services systematically, an objective in its national anti-trafficking action plan.

The government apportioned funds to operate safe houses for trafficking victims, asylum-seekers, and migrants awaiting deportation. Four children’s homes operated by the government were available to shelter victims younger than 21 years of age. Trafficking victims were eligible to apply for government legal aid and receive basic medical care. The government made available accommodation, medical care, interpreters, and allowances for basic necessities. However, officials reported the absence of a government agency responsible for connecting victims to services which limited the government’s anti-trafficking efforts. In addition, because the government did not offer them permanent residency status, foreign victims were unable to work while assisting with investigations. Victims had the right to file for civil remedies, but none took advantage of that legal right.

PREVENTION

The government maintained modest efforts to prevent trafficking. Although the government has the authority to do so, it did not punish labor brokers involved in fraudulent recruitment during the reporting period. The police anti-trafficking unit began investigating a travel agency that allegedly facilitated the trafficking of 15 Fijians in New Zealand. The police anti-trafficking unit continued public awareness campaigns aimed at children and parents. Immigration and labor officials conducted awareness programs targeted at Fijians who work overseas to prevent labor exploitation. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, forced labor, or child sex tourism. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to Fijian military personnel prior to their deployment abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions. The government provided anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel. Fiji is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; however, during the reporting period parliament initiated a review of a convention that would allow Fiji to accede to the Protocol.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, Fiji is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Fijian women and children are subjected to sex trafficking and domestic servitude abroad or in Fijian cities. Family members, taxi drivers, foreign tourists, businessmen, and crew on foreign fishing vessels have allegedly exploited Fijian children in sex trafficking. Some Fijian children are at risk of human trafficking as families follow a traditional practice of sending them to live with relatives or families in larger cities, where they may be subjected to domestic servitude or coerced to engage in sexual activity in exchange for food, clothing, shelter, or school fees. Women from China, Thailand, Malaysia, and other East Asian countries are deceptively recruited by the lure of legitimate jobs in their home countries or while visiting Fiji, sometimes by Chinese criminal organizations, and then exploited in illegal brothels (posing as massage parlors and spas), local hotels, private homes, small and informal farms and factories, and other rural and urban locations. Fijian adults working overseas, including in Australia and New Zealand, are vulnerable to forced labor, particularly in the construction and agriculture industries. Workers from other Asian countries are subjected to forced labor on fishing vessels that transit through Fiji or board fishing vessels from Fiji ports and waters. They live in poor conditions, accrue significant debts, and work for little or no compensation on foreign fishing vessels, mainly China and Taiwan-flagged, in Pacific waters. South Asian and East Asian men are fraudulently recruited to work in Fiji and find themselves in conditions of forced labor upon arrival.