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PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Tier 2 Watch List

The Government of Papua New Guinea does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government made key achievements during the reporting period; therefore, Papua New Guinea was upgraded to Tier 2 Watch List. These achievements included approving the long-awaited national action plan on combating human trafficking and standard operating procedures for the identification, referral, and protection of victims and initiating the first three prosecutions under the country’s anti-trafficking law. Despite these achievements, the government did not begin implementation of the national action plan and standard operating procedures or allocate resources to do so. An acute lack of financial and human resources dedicated to trafficking, as well as very low awareness among government officials and the public, hindered progress. The government did not systematically implement its new victim identification procedures, nor did it provide or fund protective services to victims. Officials reportedly self-limited investigations into wealthy or influential suspects. Papua New Guinea has never convicted a trafficking offender.

Train law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges on human trafficking and the criminal code’s trafficking provisions; disseminate, implement, and widely train police, immigration, and customs enforcement officers on the standard operating procedures for victim identification, referral, and protection; investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and apply stringent sentences to traffickers, including family members and officials who facilitate or directly benefit from trafficking; in collaboration with civil society, screen for indicators of trafficking among fishermen apprehended for illegal fishing or immigration crimes; to protect victims from arrest, deportation, or other punishment for acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking, clarify who has the authority to designate an individual as a trafficking victim and simplify the process for doing so; allocate resources, including dedicated staff, to government agencies to implement the national action plan and standard operating procedures; increase collaboration with civil society, private sector, religious, and community leaders to raise awareness of and reduce demand for forced labor and commercial sex acts, especially of children; work with NGOs and international organizations to increase protective services for victims of trafficking; strengthen the National Human Trafficking Committee by designating senior officials to represent their agencies; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

The government increased law enforcement efforts. The Criminal Code Amendment of 2013 prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties for adult sex and labor trafficking of up to 20 years imprisonment and for child sex and labor trafficking of up to 25 years imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The police initiated investigations into three individuals suspected of trafficking, compared with two investigations the previous year, and prosecuted three suspects (one from a case investigated in 2015). These were the first prosecutions under Papua New Guinea’s anti-trafficking law. One suspect remained in pre-trial detention and one was out on bail, both awaiting commencement of court proceedings. The third prosecution moved to trial and was ongoing at the close of the reporting period. Authorities did not pursue charges against the third suspect, purportedly due to his wealth and influence, who was suspected of subjecting three sisters to sex and labor trafficking after they were forced to marry him. The government did not achieve any trafficking convictions, and officials often referred trafficking offenses to village courts rather than pursuing criminal investigations; village courts administer customary law and do not order imprisonment of offenders. Some victims or their families who received compensation from traffickers were reluctant to notify police to pursue criminal charges or were pressured to withdraw complaints already filed.

An international organization conducted trainings for government officials and NGOs with support from the Department of Justice and Attorney General. Provincial officials’ limited understanding of trafficking hindered effective law enforcement activity. Many public officials, even within Port Moresby, remained unaware of the anti-trafficking law. Enforcement agencies and most government offices remained weak as a result of underfunding, corruption, cronyism, a lack of accountability, and a promotion system based on patronage. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.

The government maintained minimal efforts to protect trafficking victims. Authorities and civil society organizations identified six Papua New Guinean victims—two women, three girls, and one boy—compared with 31 victims identified in 2015 and none in 2014. NGOs and an international organization identified the majority of these individuals, although a police officer identified two of the girls—the first recorded instance of an official independently identifying trafficking victims. All six victims were subjected to domestic servitude, in some instances through forced marriage. Officials referred three cases of foreign vessels apprehended for illegal fishing to an international organization to screen for indicators of trafficking among the crew, but no trafficking victims were identified. Logging and mining sites primarily operated in remote regions with negligible government oversight, and authorities did not make efforts to identify sex or labor trafficking victims at these sites. The government finalized standard operating procedures for victim identification and referral. These were not fully implemented during the year, though some officials who received specialized training from civil society began conducting rapid screening procedures prior to referring suspected victims to an international organization. These measures led to the identification and referral of the two girl victims by a police officer. Civil society organizations provided medical and short-term shelter services to victims without financial or in-kind support from the government. Male victims received ad hoc services and female victims received services through gender-based violence programs; there were no services specifically tailored to the needs of trafficking victims.

A lack of long-term protective services or witness protection hindered law enforcement efforts, as victims who returned to their home communities often feared for their safety or faced pressure to withdraw criminal charges. Nine victims assisted in the case under prosecution, with support from civil society organizations to facilitate their testimonies. The new standard operating procedures included guidance for protecting foreign victims from punishment for immigration crimes committed as a result of trafficking, but some victims remained at risk of punishment for such crimes due to challenges in interagency coordination and a lack of clarity over who had the authority to verify an individual as a victim of trafficking. The law provides legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims of trafficking to countries where they may face hardship or retribution, but no victim was afforded this protection in 2016. The government allowed “ongoing stay” for trafficking victims, but lacked provisions for victims to seek compensation through civil suits.

The government took few steps to prevent human trafficking. It formally endorsed a national plan of action to combat human trafficking, although it did not begin to implement its provisions. The National Human Trafficking Committee met quarterly in 2016, although its members lacked the authority to make decisions on behalf of respective agencies and an acute lack of coordination and resources across agencies hindered progress. The government did not conduct any awareness-raising campaigns or community outreach to educate the public about risks to trafficking. The government took no discernible actions to decrease the demand for forced labor or commercial sex acts, nor did it provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel. Papua New Guinea is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

As reported over the past five years, Papua New Guinea is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Foreign and local women and children are subjected to sex trafficking—including near logging, mining, and palm oil sites—domestic servitude, forced labor in the tourism sector, and forced begging or street vending. Foreign and local men are subjected to forced labor in logging and mining camps as well as on fishing vessels operating in Papua New Guinea’s exclusive economic zone. “Mosko Girls”—young girls employed in bars to provide companionship to patrons and sell an alcoholic drink called mosko—are vulnerable to human trafficking, especially around major cities. Boys as young as 12 years old are exploited as “market taxis” in urban areas and the Highlands and required to carry extremely heavy loads for low pay; some may be victims of forced labor. Parents force children to beg or sell goods on the street as sources of income. Within the country, children and women from rural areas are deceived—often by relatives—with promises of legitimate work or education to travel to different provinces where they are subjected to sex trafficking or domestic servitude. NGOs report some parents receive money from traffickers who exploited their teenage daughters in prostitution, including near mining and logging sites. Children, including girls as young as 5 years old from remote rural areas, are reportedly subjected to sex trafficking or forced labor by members of their immediate family or tribe. Tribal leaders reportedly trade with each other the exploitative labor and service of girls and women for guns and to forge political alliances.

Parents sometimes sell or force their daughters into marriages —often to wealthy men and politicians—to settle debts or as peace offerings, leaving the girls vulnerable to domestic servitude. Marriages in Papua New Guinea commonly involve a “bride price” of money or chattel paid to the wife’s family by the husband’s family; this is sometimes used as a debt to compel women to remain in abusive or servile marriages when their families are unable to pay back the bride price. Young girls sold into polygamous marriages may be forced into domestic service for their husbands’ extended families or exploited in prostitution. “Informal adoption” arrangements, in which children are sent to live with relatives, sometimes result in domestic servitude. In urban areas, parents reportedly exploit their children in sex trafficking directly or in brothels as a means to support their families or to pay for school fees. Government officials reportedly facilitate trafficking by accepting bribes to allow undocumented migrants to enter the country or ignore trafficking situations, and some may exploit sex trafficking victims or procure victims for other individuals in return for political favors or votes.

Malaysian and Chinese logging companies arrange for some foreign women to enter the country voluntarily with fraudulently issued tourist or business visas. After their arrival, many of these women—from countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, China, and the Philippines—are turned over to traffickers who transport them to logging and mining camps, fisheries, and entertainment sites, and exploit them in forced prostitution and domestic servitude. Chinese, Malaysian, and local men are subjected to forced labor at commercial mines and logging camps, where some receive little pay and are compelled to continue working for the company indefinitely through debt bondage. Employers exacerbate workers’ indebtedness by paying extremely low wages, which limits workers’ freedom of movement and compels them to purchase food and other necessities from the employers at usurious interest rates. Vietnamese, Burmese, Cambodian, and local men and boys are subjected to forced labor on fishing vessels; they face little to no pay, harsh working conditions, and debt bondage, and many are compelled to fish illegally, making them vulnerable to arrest.

U.S. Department of State

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