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FIJI: Tier 2 Watch List

The Government of Fiji does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. These efforts included the formalization of the police’s anti-trafficking unit, which will result in increased resources to investigate trafficking cases. Officials initiated prosecutions of two suspected labor traffickers, provided training for police officers, and conducted public awareness campaigns. However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. The government did not identify any victims of trafficking, investigated fewer cases, and did not convict any traffickers for the fourth consecutive year. The government did not have guidelines for victim identification or referral procedures, and officials did not take steps to proactively identify victims. The government did not take steps to update or implement its 2011 anti-trafficking action plan, and some reports suggested official complicity impeded anti-trafficking efforts. Therefore, Fiji remained on Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year.

Develop and implement formal victim identification and referral procedures for police, immigration, customs, and labor officials. • Proactively screen groups vulnerable to trafficking, such as foreign migrant workers on fishing vessels, persons in prostitution, and exploited children. • Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish traffickers, including by convening the Inter-Agency Working Group on People Trafficking. • Amend trafficking-related provisions of the Crimes Act to criminalize all forms of trafficking. • Increase efforts to facilitate the ability of identified victims to work and earn income while assisting with investigations. • Deliver effective training to a greater number of police, prosecutors, immigration, customs, and labor officials on trafficking. • Update and implement the 2011 anti-trafficking national action plan. • Designate a government agency responsible for coordinating victim services. • Increase dissemination of labor and sex trafficking awareness campaigns.

The government maintained law enforcement efforts. The 2009 Crimes Act criminalized some forms of labor trafficking and all forms of sex trafficking. Sections 112-117 criminalized trafficking in persons but, inconsistent with international law, required either transnational or domestic movement in order to constitute a trafficking offense. These articles prescribed penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment for movement-based trafficking offenses involving adult victims and up to 25 years’ imprisonment for those involving child victims; these penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with other serious crimes, such as kidnapping. Sex trafficking offenses that did not involve movement could be prosecuted under Sections 106, 107, 226, and 227 of the Crimes Act. Section 106 criminalized sexual servitude by means of force or threat and prescribed penalties of up to 15 years’ imprisonment if the offense involved an adult victim and up to 20 years’ imprisonment if the offense involved a child victim. Section 107 criminalized “deceptive recruiting for sexual services,” including inducing and maintaining individuals in prostitution through deceptive means, and prescribed penalties of up to seven years’ imprisonment if the offense involved an adult victim and up to nine years’ imprisonment if the offense involved a child victim. Sections 226 and 227 criminalized the buying or selling of children for “immoral purposes,” which included prostitution, and prescribed penalties of up to 12 years’ imprisonment. The penalties prescribed under these sections were sufficiently stringent and commensurate with the penalties prescribed for other grave crimes, such as rape. While Sections 103 and 118 criminalized slavery and debt bondage respectively, all forms of labor trafficking were not criminalized under the Crimes Act. The law prescribed penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for slavery, and penalties of up to one year imprisonment for debt bondage involving an adult victim, and up to two years’ imprisonment for those involving a child victim; the penalties for slavery were sufficiently stringent, while the penalties for debt bondage were not.

Police initiated investigations of three suspected trafficking cases in 2018 (six in 2017). The government initiated prosecutions of two suspects for their alleged involvement in subjecting Fijians to forced labor in New Zealand and one alleged sex trafficker (three in 2017). The government obtained zero trafficking convictions for the fourth consecutive year. In an effort to improve the capacity of the police’s anti-trafficking unit, which did not previously have adequate resources to effectively conduct investigations, the government formalized the unit in order to increase its budget and staff to seven officers; however, the budget did not increase during the reporting period. Police did not proactively investigate trafficking cases. Prosecutors continued to return case files to the police for further investigation, and police continued to request additional instruction on the requirements of trafficking case files. This disconnect continued to impair the government’s pursuit of trafficking cases. Inadequate victim support, including insufficient efforts to enable victims to work and earn income while assisting with investigations, impaired the success of prosecutions. Restrictive policies limiting law enforcement officials’ access to child victims staying in government shelters may have hindered the ability of police and prosecutors to build rapport with victims, obtain statements, and prepare victims for trials against their traffickers. The government conducted seven trainings for police recruits and prosecutors; however, contacts reported law enforcement were often not aware of the definition of trafficking, procedures for interviewing victims, or how to proactively identify victims. Fijian law enforcement cooperated with South Korean authorities to investigate leaders of a church that allegedly confiscated the passports of its members who worked in various companies owned by the church without pay. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses; however, some reports indicated low-level official complicity impeded anti-trafficking efforts, including by preventing the investigation of trafficking in Chinese-operated brothels.

The government decreased efforts to identify and protect victims. The government did not identify any trafficking victims (six in 2017). Government officials did not proactively screen for victims of trafficking among vulnerable populations and did not use guidelines for identification of victims. The government did not report efforts to train labor inspectors, customs officials, or immigration authorities on trafficking or victim identification. The government did not develop a formal mechanism to refer victims to services as set out in its national anti-trafficking action plan and did not designate an agency to coordinate victim services. The government apportioned funds to operate safe houses for trafficking victims, asylum-seekers, and migrants awaiting deportation; ten children’s homes partially funded by the government were available to shelter victims younger than 21 years of age. The government made available accommodation, legal aid, medical care, interpreters, and allowances for basic necessities. The lack of proactive screening may have resulted in the penalization of unidentified victims. The government did not offer legal alternatives to foreign victims’ removal to countries in which they would face retribution or hardship.

The government maintained minimal efforts to prevent trafficking. The government had not taken steps to implement a national action plan drafted in 2011. The police anti-trafficking unit conducted public awareness campaigns and seminars aimed at children and parents; nonetheless, observers reported minimal public awareness of trafficking. 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 or forced labor. The government trained some diplomatic personnel on trafficking but did not provide anti-trafficking training to Fijian military personnel prior to their deployment abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Fiji, and traffickers exploit victims from Fiji abroad. Traffickers subject Fijian women and children to sex trafficking and domestic servitude. Family members, taxi drivers, foreign tourists, businessmen, crew on foreign fishing vessels, and other traffickers have allegedly exploited Fijian women and children in sex trafficking. Traffickers exploit victims in illegal brothels, local hotels, private homes, and massage parlors, and sometimes utilize websites and cell phone applications to advertise victims for commercial sex. Some Fijian children are at risk of 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. Traffickers exploit women and children from China, Thailand, and Fiji in hotels and illegal Chinese-operated brothels. Fijian adults working overseas, including in New Zealand and Australia, are subjected to forced labor, particularly in the construction and agriculture industries. Traffickers subject workers from South and East Asian countries to forced labor in small and informal farms and factories, construction, and on fishing vessels that transit through Fiji or board fishing vessels (mainly China- and Taiwan-flagged) from Fiji ports and waters.

U.S. Department of State

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