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Fiji (Tier 2)

The Government of Fiji does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Fiji remained on Tier 2. These efforts included identifying more victims than in the previous reporting period following improved screenings, securing the second conviction of a trafficker since 2014, and improving coordination between immigration officials and police, as well as between government officials and NGOs. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government initiated fewer investigations than in the previous reporting period, only initiated one prosecution, and did not provide services to any trafficking victims. The government did not prosecute or convict any suspected complicit officials despite reports that official complicity impeded anti-trafficking efforts.

PRIORITIZED RECOMMENDATIONS:

  • Finalize and implement formal victim identification and referral procedures for police, immigration, customs, and labor officials.
  • Proactively screen groups vulnerable to trafficking, including persons in commercial sex, migrant workers, and child laborers.
  • Increase efforts to prosecute trafficking crimes and convict and punish traffickers, including those complicit in child sex trafficking on private yachts and in hotels.
  • Amend trafficking-related provisions of the Crimes Act to criminalize all forms of trafficking.
  • Provide services to victim and ensure victims are referred to the Case Management Coordinator Office.
  • Improve collaboration between police and prosecutors working trafficking cases to improve the success of prosecutions.
  • Proactively investigate potential official complicity in trafficking-related crimes.
  • Draft, finalize, and implement standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the Police Human Trafficking Unit.
  • Increase the oversight of the working conditions of foreign construction workers and increase investigation of labor violations involving children and migrant workers for forced labor.
  • Enable identified foreign victims to work and earn income while assisting with investigations and provide a legal alternative to victims’ removal to countries in which they would face retribution or hardship.
  • Increase dissemination of labor and sex trafficking awareness campaigns, including to raise awareness of sex trafficking laws among foreign tourists.

PROSECUTION

The government maintained anti-trafficking 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 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 it prescribed penalties of up to one year’s 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. The government’s National Anti-Human Trafficking Sub-Committee on Legislative Desktop Review continued to review the governments trafficking legal framework.

Police initiated investigations of three trafficking cases, including two sex trafficking cases and one involving an unspecified form of exploitation, a decrease compared to 10 investigations initiated in the previous reporting period. The government initiated prosecution of one suspected sex trafficker and convicted one child sex trafficker who was sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment, compared with two prosecutions and no convictions during the previous reporting period. The Police’s Human Trafficking Unit (HTU) led the government’s anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. However, police did not proactively investigate trafficking cases consistently, and the government has only convicted two traffickers since 2014. The government did not report efforts to investigate child sex tourists or facilitators who transported child sex trafficking victims to hotels or private yachts, despite reporting that this practice increased during the year. HTU assigned an officer to be embedded within the Immigration Department (FID), which improved information sharing and coordination between the two agencies. The government reported that under Fiji’s legal system, the prosecutor’s office acted independently from law enforcement investigations, including in cases involving human trafficking; however, a lack of communication and coordination between police and prosecutors continued to impair the government’s pursuit of trafficking cases. Officials cited inadequate resources for victim-witness support as weakening the success of prosecutions. Authorities collaborated with foreign government officials on a suspected trafficking case.

HTU continued to conduct anti-trafficking trainings for police recruits; however, observers reported the one-day anti-trafficking trainings provided to police recruits were insufficient. FID collaborated with a foreign government and international organization to provide trafficking training for immigration officials. Law enforcement officials were often not aware of the definition of trafficking, procedures for interviewing victims, or how to proactively identify victims. HTU did not complete SOPs for investigating trafficking cases, which it began drafting in the previous reporting period. In February 2021, the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption initiated an investigation of alleged official complicity by an immigration official in a suspected trafficking case who was suspended without pay while the investigation remained ongoing at the end of the reporting period. However, the government did not report any prosecutions or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking crimes.

PROTECTION

The government slightly increased protection efforts. The government identified more victims but did not provide services to any victims. The government reported identifying 11 trafficking victims (two sex trafficking victims and nine unspecified form of exploitation), compared to three victims identified in the previous reporting period. Government officials increased efforts to proactively screen vulnerable populations, including children, for trafficking; for example, a police children’s unit and the Department of Social Welfare (DSW) screened children referred to their services for trafficking indicators, which resulted in the identification of victims. In addition, improved coordination among government authorities, NGOs, and faith-based organizations increased referrals to government services. The government’s national anti-trafficking strategy included indicators of trafficking for frontline officials, but the government did not have formal victim identification procedures for all relevant agencies; however, in consultation with NGOs, an international organization, and other civil society organizations, the government began work to develop a national referral mechanism in March 2022. The Ministry of Defense, National Security, and Policing operated a Case Management Coordinator office (CMC), as well as a case management mechanism that created formal procedures for officials to refer victims to the CMC. The CMC assumed responsibility of coordinating victim support and overseeing the progression of investigations and prosecutions. However, the CMC did not oversee any cases or coordinate victim services during the reporting period, and the case management mechanism was not implemented in practice.

The government made available to victims accommodation, legal aid, medical care, interpreters, and allowances for basic necessities; authorities provided an unspecified number of victims with shelter and access to basic essentials, as well as repatriation assistance. The government did not allocate funds specifically for trafficking victims, and the law did not specifically mandate the provision of services to victims of trafficking, which meant victims often relied on NGOs, with whom the government had informal partnership, for services. In addition, a lack of resources for interpretation services for foreign victims impeded their access to psycho-social care. FID operated safehouses for foreign individuals awaiting deportation, including trafficking victims. The government could shelter victims younger than 21 under the custody of DSW, which operated four children’s homes. Due to a lack of formal identification procedures, authorities may have detained and deported some unidentified victims. The government did not offer permanent legal alternatives to foreign victims’ removal to countries in which they would face retribution or hardship but could issue renewable six-month work visas to victims assisting with investigations. During the reporting period, the government granted a work permit to one foreign victim to enable them to remain in Fiji and serve as a witness.

PREVENTION

The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. The government allocated funding and personnel to implement the 2021- 2026 anti-trafficking national action plan. The Interagency National Trafficking Committee, composed of government officials, international organizations, and civil society organizations, coordinated the government’s anti-trafficking efforts. HTU was unable to conduct its public awareness campaigns and seminars aimed at children and young adults at learning institutions, which were closed due to pandemic restrictions. However, the government reported it coordinated with an international organization to host virtual awareness raising workshops.

Authorities did not adequately monitor the labor conditions of worksites, including construction sites, of companies with foreign owners or that had connections to foreign investors and employed migrant workers. Immigration authorities conducted a week-long operation to inspect construction companies across the country and issued letters to 30 businesses found to employ migrant workers with irregular visa conditions; however, authorities did not identify any potential victims of trafficking during these inspections. The Ministry of Employment, Productivity, and Industrial Relations employed labor inspectors dedicated to identifying labor law violations, including wage violations. Inspectors reportedly did not have an adequate understanding of forced labor, and the government did not provide training on the enforcement of laws related to child labor. The government did not report how many labor inspections were conducted in 2021, compared to 843 inspections in 2020, and did not identify any child labor violations (41 identified in 2019). The Permanent Secretary for Labor issued certificates of authorization for employment agencies, which required agencies meet standards under the Employment Relations Regulations of 2008; agencies convicted of operating without authorization could be fined 20,000 Fijian dollars ($9,510), imprisoned for up to four years, or both; however, authorities did not convict any agencies during the reporting period. The government did not prohibit worker-paid recruitment fees. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The government trained some diplomatic personnel on trafficking. The government incorporated training on sexual exploitation into pre-deployment training but did not provide trafficking-specific training to Fijian military personnel prior to their deployment abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Fiji, and traffickers exploit victims from Fiji abroad. Family members, taxi drivers, foreign tourists, businessmen, crew on foreign fishing vessels, and other traffickers have allegedly exploited victims from Thailand and the People’s Republic of China (PRC), as well as Fijian women and children, in sex trafficking. Traffickers exploit victims in illegal brothels, local hotels, private homes, and massage parlors, and traffickers sometimes utilize websites and cell phone applications to advertise victims for commercial sex. Some Fijian children are at risk of sex and labor 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. Fijian children were at risk for forced labor in agriculture, retail, or other sectors. Rising levels of poverty also contributed to increased risks of Fijian children being exploited in commercial sex and forced labor. The economic crisis related to the pandemic, as well as recent natural disasters, increased the number of children using the streets as a source of livelihood or compelled to seek incomes to sustain their families; these children are at risk of being exploited in sex trafficking or forced labor. Reports indicated children as young as 12 years old were exploited in sex trafficking, including to purchase food and other essentials for their families. Traffickers exploit Fijian and PRC national women and children in PRC national-operated massage parlors and brothels, particularly in Suva. In some cases, massage parlor owners arrange for female Fijian employees to engage in commercial sex acts with clients in local hotels and brothels. Foreign yacht owners and foreigners hiring locally-owned yachts dock in rural Fijian islands and seek young women, usually children, for marriage; some of these women and children subsequently become at risk to forced labor or sex trafficking. Taxi drivers or other facilitators transport Fijian child sex trafficking victims to hotels in popular tourist areas or to private yachts at the request of foreign tourists seeking commercial sex acts.

Some Fijian men reportedly marry women from Nepal and Pakistan and subject them to domestic servitude in Fiji. Labor traffickers exploit workers from South and East Asian countries in small, informal farms and factories, and in construction. Recruitment agencies operating in victims’ home countries, vessel owners, and other crew exploit migrant fisherman from Southeast Asian countries, especially Indonesia, in forced labor on Fijian-flagged fishing vessels or foreign-flagged fishing vessels (mainly PRC- and Taiwan-flagged) transiting Fijian ports and waters. Victims of forced labor experience threats of violence, passport confiscation, debt-based coercion, excessive working hours, and abusive living and working conditions. Fijian workers in Australia and New Zealand are at risk of labor trafficking. Reports indicated low-level official complicity impeded anti-trafficking efforts. Corruption among some officials prevented the investigation of trafficking, including in PRC national-operated brothels. In addition, immigration officials allegedly took action that indirectly facilitated or enabled human trafficking.

U.S. Department of State

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