SOLOMON ISLANDS: Tier 2
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. The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore the Solomon Islands remained on Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by initiating its first two prosecutions of suspected traffickers and investigating the parents of two child victims, further amending its legal framework to provide additional protections for children against all forms of trafficking, and implementing victim identification procedures. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Victim protection was severely lacking as the government did not provide resources such as shelter and psycho-social support for all victims. Low awareness among government officials and the public hindered progress, yet the government did not conduct any anti-trafficking training.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE SOLOMON ISLANDS
Investigate and prosecute both sex and labor trafficking offenses and convict and punish traffickers with dissuasive prison sentences; amend anti-trafficking laws to ensure that the penalties for sex trafficking offenses occurring outside Solomon Islands are commensurate with the penalties for other grave crimes, such as rape; increase efforts to identify sex and labor trafficking victims, including in the fishing, logging, and mining industries; provide training on human 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 services, including through the allocation of funding; institute a campaign to raise public awareness of human trafficking; allocate funding to relevant ministries to implement the national action plan for combating trafficking in persons; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
The government increased law enforcement efforts. The penal code, together with provisions in the Immigration Act, criminalized sex and labor trafficking. Article 143 of the penal code criminalized child sex trafficking 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 and labor trafficking when the offense occurred within the country and prescribed penalties of up to 15 years imprisonment. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. 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 Island dollars ($6,010), 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 Island dollars ($12,010), or both for the trafficking of children. These penalties were sufficiently stringent, but with respect to sex trafficking, not commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious offenses.
The government prosecuted its first two alleged sex traffickers (no prosecutions or convictions recorded in previous reporting periods). Authorities prosecuted two suspected sex traffickers accused of exploiting two child victims from the Solomon Islands at logging camps. In each case, law enforcement was also investigating the victims’ parents for engaging in and benefiting from child sex trafficking. Due to inadequate funding at enforcement agencies, authorities were slow to respond to reports of trafficking. Law enforcement lacked logistical resources and technical expertise to pursue investigations. The government did not initiate or conduct any training programs. A foreign government conducted training for law enforcement officials on human trafficking investigations with logistical support from the government. Many officials remained unaware of anti-trafficking legislation and an overall lack of awareness of trafficking hindered effective law enforcement activity. The government did not conduct any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking offenses.
The government maintained efforts to protect trafficking victims. It continued implementing victim identification guidelines and a screening tool to assess potential cases. The government conducted multi-agency monitoring and inspection operations at logging, mining, and fishing operation sites. The government reported identifying two victims. In comparison, authorities identified 11 trafficking victims in 2016 and 15 victims in 2015. No trafficking-specific services existed in the country; however, one local organization operated a shelter in Honiara for domestic violence victims that could provide shelter to female sex trafficking victims. Police referred one sex trafficking victim to the shelter and trauma counseling through an international NGO. The government provided a total of 700,000 Solomon Islands dollars ($93,450) to fund the shelter and provide victim services. A lack of long-term protective services left victims vulnerable to re-trafficking after being returned to their home communities. No shelter services existed for victims of labor trafficking.
The Immigration Act granted the government authority to provide temporary residence permits to allow foreign victims to assist police with investigations and provided victims protection from prosecution for immigration-related crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking. The government did not report whether these protections would be extended to victims whose cases were investigated under the penal code. 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, foreign victims typically opted to return to their home countries, which hindered prosecutions. The government reported trafficking victims were able to seek compensation from their employers through civil suits, although no trafficking victims had filed such suits.
The government maintained limited 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 2015-2020 national action plan. The government promulgated the Child and Welfare Act in 2017 to strengthen the Solomon Islands penal code, providing protection for children against sexual and trafficking crimes. As a result of increased monitoring by the authorities, logging companies reportedly changed their recruitment policy to increase compliance with foreign employment recruitment laws. The government targeted specific communities for public awareness last year. The government investigated a report of child sex trafficking at one of the logging camps in Temotu Province and met with the local community in the province to conduct public awareness sessions on sex trafficking. The government did not report taking 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 was not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
As reported over the past five years, 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 pay large recruitment fees for jobs and upon arrival are forced into prostitution. Men from Indonesia and Malaysia, recruited to work in logging and mining industries, are subjected to forced labor.
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 Island 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 and entertainment establishments. Girls and young women are recruited for domestic work and some are subsequently exploited in prostitution at the logging camps. Some parents receive payments for sending young women and girls into forced marriages with foreign workers at logging and mining companies; many of them are exploited in domestic servitude or prostitution. To pay off debts, families may offer their children for “informal adoption,” and the adopted family or guardians subject them to forced labor or sexual servitude. Traffickers at logging camps force young males to work as domestic servants and cooks.