2017 Trafficking in Persons Report: Solomon Islands
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 was upgraded to Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by amending its legal framework to prohibit all forms of trafficking, implementing new victim identification procedures, and dedicating resources for the provision of food and shelter for victims. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. It did not prosecute or convict any traffickers, and victim protection was severely lacking. The government did not conduct any anti-trafficking training, and low awareness among government officials and the public hindered progress.
Investigate and prosecute both sex and labor trafficking offenses and convict and punish traffickers with dissuasive prison sentences; 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 by adding provisions to its penal code criminalizing internal trafficking. These amendments enacted in May 2016, together with existing provisions in the immigration act, prohibit and punish all forms of trafficking. Article 143 of the amended penal code prohibits child sex trafficking and prescribes penalties of up to 15 or 20 years imprisonment, based on the child’s age. Article 145 of the amended penal code prohibits all forms of trafficking in which the act occurs within the country and prescribes penalties of up to 15 years imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes. The immigration act prohibits and punishes other forms of trafficking, including crimes in which the act (recruitment, transportation, harboring, or receiving) occurs outside the Solomon Islands. The immigration act prescribes a penalty of up to five years imprisonment or a fine of up to 45,000 Solomon Island dollars ($5,670), 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 ($11,340), or both for the trafficking of children. These penalties are sufficiently stringent, but not commensurate with penalties for other serious offenses, such as rape. Further, fines in lieu of imprisonment are inadequate to deter trafficking crimes and are disproportionately low compared to the seriousness of the crime.
As in the previous reporting period, the government did not prosecute or convict any traffickers. Authorities investigated two new cases of suspected trafficking, compared to two in 2015. One was a possible sex trafficking case involving a girl from the Solomon Islands and the second was a labor trafficking case involving ten foreign men—both occurring at logging camps. Law enforcement officials referred the case of suspected child sex trafficking to the director of public prosecutions; authorities were awaiting guidance from the prosecutor’s office at the end of the reporting period. Courts dropped the forced labor investigation due to insufficient cooperation from key government officials. Two suspected cases of forced labor identified in previous reporting periods remained under consideration by the director of public prosecution. Because the government did not adequately fund enforcement agencies, authorities were slow to respond to reports of trafficking; agencies lacked logistical resources and technical expertise to pursue investigations. A foreign donor conducted training for law enforcement officials, including two “train the trainer” courses, but the government did not conduct any training itself. 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 human trafficking offenses.
The government moderately increased efforts to protect trafficking victims. It began implementing and training officials on the new victim identification guidelines and, in collaboration with an international organization, developed a screening tool to assess potential cases. The government conducted four multiagency monitoring and inspection operations at logging companies and identified 11 potential trafficking victims: 10 men from Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines suspected to be victims of forced labor and one girl exploited in sex trafficking. In comparison, authorities identified 15 labor trafficking victims in 2015 and no victims in 2014. The government spent 30,000 Solomon Islands dollars ($3,780) to provide three weeks of food and shelter for each of the potential labor trafficking victims. It provided medical services to the sex trafficking victim and referred her to a civil society organization that sheltered her for one night. One local organization operated a shelter for domestic violence victims that could provide shelter to female child sex trafficking victims; it was unknown whether it housed any trafficking victims in 2016. No trafficking-specific services existed in the country. A lack of long-term protective services left victims vulnerable to re-trafficking after being returned to their home communities.
The immigration act granted the government authority to provide temporary residence permits to allow foreign victims to assist police in investigations and provided victims protection from prosecution for immigration-related crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking. It was unclear 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 by officials 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. An international organization coordinated and paid for the repatriation of 10 victims. The government reported trafficking victims are able to seek compensation from their employers through civil suits, although no trafficking victims have ever 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 began implementation of the 2015-2020 national action plan by enacting new legislation, including a law on internal trafficking, and finalized the action plan’s terms of reference, which were awaiting cabinet approval. The government did not conduct any campaigns to raise public awareness of human trafficking. The government reported it increased its scrutiny of agents applying for visas on behalf of young foreign women, and as a result rejected 39 tourist visa applications for women it suspected to be at risk of trafficking; however, this practice may have unduly restricted the migration of young women into the Solomon Islands. 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 is 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 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.
Solomon Island children are subjected 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 to travel to logging camps for domestic work and some are subsequently exploited in prostitution. 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. Local boys and girls are put up for “informal adoption” by their families to pay off debts; some are subjected to forced labor as domestic servants or sexual servitude by the adopted family or guardians. Boys are forced to work as domestic servants and cooks in logging camps.