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PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Tier 3

The Government of Papua New Guinea does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so; therefore Papua New Guinea remained on Tier 3. Despite the lack of significant efforts, the government took some steps to address trafficking, including continuing to identify some trafficking victims and the continued advancement of a prominent trafficking prosecution initiated in a previous reporting period. However, the government again did not provide or fund protective services for victims, nor did it systematically implement its victim identification procedures. Endemic corruption among officials, particularly in the logging sector, continued to facilitate vulnerability to sex trafficking and forced labor among foreign and local populations. Since the enactment of the 2013 law, the government has not achieved a single trafficking conviction. An acute lack of financial and human resources dedicated to anti-trafficking efforts, as well as very low awareness among government officials and the public, hindered progress.

PRIORITIZED RECOMMENDATIONS:

Disseminate and systematically implement existing standard operating procedures (SOPs) for victim identification, referral, and protection and widely train police, immigration, and customs enforcement officers on the SOPs.Investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and sentence convicted traffickers to significant prison terms, including victims’ family members and officials who facilitate or directly benefit from trafficking.Amend the criminal code to criminalize child sex trafficking without elements of force, fraud, or coercion in accordance with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.In collaboration with civil society, screen for trafficking indicators among vulnerable groups, including internally displaced persons, communities located near commercial forestry operations, children in communities marked by inter-tribal conflict, and individuals—including children—apprehended for illegal fishing, desertion from foreign-registered fishing vessels, illegal logging, illegal gold panning, or immigration crimes.Increase protective services for victims of trafficking in coordination with NGOs and international organizations.Protect victims from arrest, deportation, or other punishment for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit, and 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 SOPs.Increase collaboration with civil society groups, the private sector, and religious and community leaders to raise awareness of and reduce demand for commercial sex acts and forced labor, especially of children.Take steps to eliminate recruitment or placement fees charged to workers by labor recruiters and ensure any recruitment fees are paid by employers.Strengthen the national anti-trafficking committee by regularizing its meetings and functions, designating senior officials to represent their agencies, increasing awareness of and participation in the committee by civil society and protection stakeholders, and allocating resources for its activities.Accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

PROSECUTION

The government maintained insufficient law enforcement efforts. The Criminal Code Amendment of 2013 criminalized most forms of sex trafficking and all forms of labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Inconsistent with international law, the law required a demonstration of force, fraud, or coercion to constitute a child sex trafficking offense and therefore did not criminalize all forms of child sex trafficking. The government did not report any new trafficking investigations and, for the third consecutive year, the government did not report any new prosecutions. Since the enactment of the 2013 law, the government has never achieved a single trafficking conviction. The government did not report any updates to court proceedings, which had commenced last reporting period, of a sex trafficking case from 2016. The defendant, initially charged with seven counts of trafficking for allegedly subjecting six Papua New Guinean women and one girl to sex trafficking, filed for dismissal of the case. In October 2018, the National Court dismissed his no-case submission but acquitted him on one count of trafficking due to the relevant victim’s inability to provide evidence. The government did not report updates to the remaining six trafficking counts at the end of the reporting period. In connection with the above case, an investigation opened in 2017 against a police commander for allegedly subjecting eight women to sex trafficking and forced labor was still in process at the end of the reporting period. In January 2020, law enforcement and immigration officials conducted a raid on a night club in Port Moresby and detained eight potential trafficking victims, but it was unclear whether a full trafficking victim assessment was conducted before the women were reportedly deported for immigration violations.

An international organization provided anti-trafficking training to 74 judicial officials, and the government provided some logistical support for the event. National and provincial officials’ limited understanding of trafficking hindered effective law enforcement activity. Enforcement agencies and most government offices remained weak as a result of underfunding, political instability, corruption, cronyism, a lack of accountability, and a promotion system based on patronage. Observers also ascribed poor prosecutorial efforts to widespread observance of customary justice practices, fear of retribution and distrust of law enforcement among victims, and insufficient resources and political will among urban law enforcement to conduct investigations in rural areas.

PROTECTION

The government maintained inadequate efforts to protect victims. The government maintained SOPs for victim identification, but authorities continued to lack a written guide as recommended in the national action plan, and general awareness of the SOPs among front-line officers was limited. In addition, the government noted the SOPs contained no measures to screen for trafficking indicators among adults arrested for commercial sex. The government did not have a structured plan to monitor, secure, identify, or refer victims among vulnerable communities in IDP camps as a result of conflict or natural disasters. 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. Officials did not seize any foreign vessels for trafficking or illegal fishing for the third consecutive year, despite reported prevalence of the crime. The government provided law enforcement agencies rapid screening forms and related victim identification training; however, police continued to rely upon foreign expert assistance to identify victims. Authorities reportedly identified three trafficking victims during the reporting period, compared with the government and an international organization jointly screening for trafficking indicators among 17 individuals in 2018, which culminated in the positive identification of six trafficking victims.

The government did not allocate any resources for victim protection services and referred the three victims to an international organization for services. Civil society organizations provided medical and short-term shelter services to victims without financial or in-kind support from the government. Male victims could receive ad hoc services, and female and child victims could receive services through NGO-run gender-based violence programs; there were no services specifically tailored to the needs of trafficking victims. The victim identification procedures included guidance for protecting foreign victims from punishment for immigration crimes committed as a result of trafficking; however, authorities punished some victims for such crimes due to ineffective victim identification, poor interagency coordination, and a lack of clarity over who had the authority to verify an individual as a victim of trafficking. In January 2020, police and immigration officials detained eight Chinese women allegedly engaged in commercial sex at a club catering to Asian businessmen in Port Moresby. While they reportedly consulted an international organization for guidance on victim identification, it was unclear if the government implemented systematic screening for trafficking indicators. Despite being unable to locate the alleged business owner at the time, the eight women were reportedly deported for immigration violations. Law enforcement arrested migrant workers at illegal logging operations, despite their having been ordered to work at those sites by companies operating with the permission of a separate government agency; some of these workers may have been unidentified trafficking victims. Observers reported a law allowing officials to apprehend foreign fishermen for desertion in port may have dissuaded some victims of forced labor from escaping and reporting their abuses. In prior years, authorities arrested and prosecuted children who were forced to pan for gold in areas where this activity was illegal; the National Anti-Human Trafficking Committee last reported efforts to screen these children for trafficking indicators in 2017. The law provided legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution, but the government did not report offering this protection to any victims in 2019. The government allowed “ongoing stay” for trafficking victims but did not extend the service to any individuals during the reporting period, and it lacked provisions for victims to seek compensation through civil suits.

PREVENTION

The government decreased efforts to prevent trafficking. The National Anti-Human Trafficking Committee continued to operate with insufficient resources; the government did not appoint specific committee members to represent relevant agencies, and some key interagency stakeholders were unaware of its existence. The Committee met infrequently, met without participation from non-governmental protection stakeholders, and, like last year, did not report participating in informational sessions to gauge stakeholder awareness of the crime. In partnership with an international organization, the Ministry for Police hosted an intergovernmental forum in October 2019 to raise awareness of trafficking, but key stakeholders from the government’s anti-trafficking interagency were not present. The government did not demonstrate measurable progress in, or allocate any resources to, the implementation of its national plan of action, and key government officials were unaware of the plan. Authorities did not conduct any awareness-raising campaigns or community outreach to educate the public about trafficking indicators. The government did not conduct research to address its trafficking problem, nor did it operate an anti-trafficking hotline. The government did not have effective policies to regulate foreign labor recruiters or hold them liable for fraudulent recruitment practices. With only two labor inspectors per province, inadequate resources, and endemic corruption, the government did not take adequate steps to prevent forced labor in the highly vulnerable logging industry. To the contrary, authorities in some cases issued forestry permits in violation of preexisting land ownership rights and without further oversight, leading to the displacement and heightened vulnerability of the land’s previous occupants and to increased risk of labor exploitation among forestry workers. Furthermore, the government reported no regulation of recruitment fees, which continued to constitute a significant driver of debt-based coercion among foreign workers. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel. The government did not make efforts to decrease the demand for commercial sex acts. Papua New Guinea is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Papua New Guinea, and they exploit victims from Papua New Guinea to trafficking abroad. Traffickers use Papua New Guinea as a transit point to exploit foreign individuals in other countries. Traffickers exploit foreign and local women and children in sex trafficking, domestic servitude, forced labor in the tourism sector, manual labor, forced begging, and street vending. According to international NGO research conducted in previous years, approximately 30 percent of Papua New Guinean sex trafficking victims are children under the age of 18, with some as young as 10 years old. Immediate family or tribe members reportedly subject children to sex trafficking or forced labor. Some parents force children to beg or sell goods on the street, and some sell or force their daughters into marriages or child sex trafficking to settle debts, resolve disputes between communities, or support their families.

Marriages in Papua New Guinea commonly involve a “bride price” of money or chattel paid to the wives’ families by the husbands’ families, who use the bride price as debt to compel women to remain in abusive or servile marriages. Some parents reportedly transfer their children—some as young as 12—to other families via informal paid adoption arrangements that, absent monitoring or registration practices, increase their risk of exploitation; this is particularly prevalent among girls, whom adoptive families often seek out as potential sources of future bride-price income. Young girls sold into polygamous marriages may be forced into domestic service for their husbands’ extended families or exploited in sex trafficking. Within the country, traffickers lure children and women with promises of legitimate work or education to travel to different provinces, where they are exploited in sex trafficking or domestic servitude. Men reportedly engage in transactional sex with girls as young as 15 in exchange for money, gifts, or mobile phone credits. Tribal leaders reportedly trade the exploitative labor and service of girls and women for guns, to forge political alliances, and to settle disputes with one other. Traffickers subject Papua New Guinean children to forced criminality in illegal gold panning. Boys as young as 12 reportedly experience conditions indicative of forced labor as porters in urban areas. Adolescent boys are also increasingly involved in inter-tribal and intercommunal armed conflict, possibly via forcible recruitment by local leadership. Hundreds of thousands of individuals—particularly women and girls—displaced following earthquakes in 2018 and heightened intertribal conflict are at higher risk of exploitation due to poor or nonexistent IDP camp security and loss of arable land for farming. International observers report increasing intercommunal tensions resulting from this displacement have led to more Papua New Guinean women and girls facing “sorcery” accusations from men in an attempt to psychologically coerce them into forced labor or sex trafficking.

Malaysian and Chinese logging companies arrange for some foreign women to enter the country voluntarily with fraudulently issued tourist or business visas; this practice may also be present at other internationally owned logging sites. 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 sex trafficking and domestic servitude. Sex traffickers also reportedly exploit foreign children in Papua New Guinea. Chinese, Malaysian, and local men are subjected to forced labor at commercial mines and logging camps. Burmese, Cambodian, Chinese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, and local men and boys seeking work on fishing vessels go into debt to pay recruitment fees, which vessel owners and senior crew leverage to compel them to continue working indefinitely through debt bondage in Papua New Guinea’s exclusive economic zone and in other maritime territories, particularly in tuna fishing. These fishermen may face little to no pay, contract switching, wage garnishing or withholding, harsh working and living conditions, restricted communication, and threats of physical violence as coercive tactics to retain their labor. Often with direct government support, companies reportedly compel these workers to carry out illegal logging and fishing activities, making them vulnerable to arrest. 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. Corruption among forestry officials in particular may be permissive of forced labor among loggers and sex trafficking in communities situated near logging sites; some of these officials reportedly accept bribes to issue logging permits in violation of environmental standards and land ownership rights, leading to displacement and concomitant loss of livelihood that make some communities more vulnerable to exploitation.

U.S. Department of State

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