The government increased law enforcement efforts. The penal code, together with the Immigration Act, criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Article 143 of the penal code criminalized child sex trafficking under its “child commercial sexual exploitation” provision 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 trafficking and labor trafficking when the offense occurred within the country. Article 145(2) applied to trafficking offenses involving an element of force, fraud, or coercion; it prescribed penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment for offenses involving adult victims and up to 25 years’ imprisonment for offenses involving child victims. Article 145(3) prescribed penalties of up to 15 years’ imprisonment for offenses that did not involve an element of force, fraud, or coercion. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as kidnapping. 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 Islands dollars ($5,800), 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 Islands dollars ($11,610), or both for the trafficking of children. These penalties were sufficiently stringent, but with respect to sex trafficking, by allowing for a fine in lieu of imprisonment, they were not commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious offenses. With technical assistance from an international organization, the government completed a review of the Immigration Act in an effort to identify gaps in the trafficking-specific provisions, among others, but it had taken no further action by the end of the reporting period.
The government reported investigating six potential trafficking cases involving at least six suspects during the reporting period, up from two investigations in 2017. Two cases involving four suspects remained under investigation at the end of the reporting period. Authorities also reported ongoing investigations into three forced labor cases involving an unspecified number of alleged traffickers. Authorities continued prosecutions initiated in 2017 against two foreign nationals for allegedly subjecting Solomon Islands children to sex trafficking in logging camps; these ongoing proceedings, filed under Section 77 of the Immigration Act, represented the country’s first trafficking prosecutions. One of the alleged perpetrators appeared for a preliminary hearing in January 2019 and was referred to the Honiara Central Magistrate for further hearing. The other case was awaiting a court date at the end of the reporting period. Both cases featured tandem investigations into the victims’ parents for allegedly engaging in and benefiting from their exploitation, but authorities did not report the status of those inquiries.
In partnership with two international organizations, the Solomon Islands Immigration Division conducted a joint training for an unspecified number of law enforcement and other anti-trafficking stakeholders on definitions, investigations, and psycho-social care for victims. Insufficient funding of enforcement agencies, lack of technical expertise, and pervasive lack of awareness of the crime and of the relevant legislation among front-line officers continued to exacerbate the government’s slow response to trafficking cases. Traditional justice practices referred to as “customary rule,” often involving retribution or informal restitution arrangements between victims’ families and their traffickers, continued to supplant formal law enforcement efforts and further complicated victims’ access to justice. Despite reports of systemic corruption that may have been permissive of trafficking, especially in relation to irregular migration and the fishing and logging industries, authorities did not investigate, prosecute, or convict any government officials for complicity in trafficking offenses.