Human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Vanuatu, and traffickers exploit victims from Vanuatu abroad. Labor traffickers exploit individuals from China, Thailand, Bangladesh, and the Philippines in Vanuatu. Traffickers target migrant women in the hospitality and tourism sectors and low skilled foreign workers in high-risk sectors, such as agriculture, mining, fishing, logging, construction, and domestic service. Chinese and South Asian migrant women are particularly at risk for labor trafficking in bars, beauty salons, and massage parlors. Bangladeshi criminal groups have reportedly lured Bangladeshi individuals with false promises of high-paying job opportunities in Australia, transported them through Fiji, India, and Singapore, and then subjected them to forced labor in the construction industry in Vanuatu. Some of the victims take out loans averaging $30,000 to pay relevant travel expenses, which the traffickers exploit through debt-based coercion. Foreign fishermen working on board Vanuatuan-flagged, Taiwan-owned vessels have experienced indicators of forced labor, including deceptive recruitment practices, abuse of vulnerability, excessive overtime, withholding of wages, physical and sexual violence, and abusive living and working conditions on board.
Natural disasters and climate-induced displacement significantly increases Vanuatuans’ vulnerability to trafficking, particularly as a majority of the population relies on small-scale and subsistence agriculture. As many as 11,000 Vanuatuans evacuated from active volcanic areas in 2018 are at higher risk of trafficking due to the economic hardships ensuing from their ongoing displacement. Women and girls may also be at risk of debt-based coercion in sex trafficking and domestic servitude via the customary practice of bride-price payments. The incidence of bride-price payments is linked to broader economic hardship and vulnerability, particularly in the context of the country’s frequent natural disasters. Children are also subjected to trafficking through child swapping—brokered as an inter-familial cultural practice or to pay off debts. There were reports of children exploited in commercial sex facilitated by taxi drivers. Forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation of children occur on fishing vessels in Vanuatu. Foreign tourists aboard boats reportedly approach remote Vanuatuan communities and offer money in exchange for marriage with underage girls as a ploy for short-term sexual exploitation. Locals onshore, acting as recruiters, also reportedly take underage girls aboard vessels and subject them to commercial sexual exploitation by foreign workers, often for weeks at a time. The local recruiters, and in some instances the families, receive payment for recruiting and transporting the girls to the boats. Children may also experience conditions indicative of forced labor in the illegal logging industry and in newspaper sales.