The government increased its 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 Solomon Islands. The Immigration Act prescribed penalties of up to five years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to 45,000 Solomon Islands dollars ($5,710), 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 ($11,410), 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. Authorities continued to charge some trafficking cases under criminal statutes carrying lesser penalties. In coordination with a regional body, the government continued to review the Immigration Act to identify gaps in trafficking-specific provisions, among others. The government allocated 920,000 Solomon Islands dollars ($116,660) in the previous reporting period to support the development of a comprehensive human trafficking statute and accede to the UNTOC and its supplementary protocols, including the TIP Protocol; the government did not report adopting the statute, and it did not accede to the TIP Protocol.
Authorities initiated three sex trafficking investigations, compared with two investigations in 2020. Authorities initiated one prosecution of an alleged sex trafficker with charges under the penal code; this was the first trafficking prosecution since 2017. For the second consecutive year, the government did not convict any traffickers. Observers noted the government prosecuted and convicted some potential trafficking cases under non-trafficking statutes. The government trained immigration officers on human trafficking, migrant smuggling, and trafficking-related laws; the government did not report providing anti-trafficking training to police or judicial officials. Geographic challenges, insufficient funding of enforcement agencies, lack of technical expertise, low judicial and police capacity, and a lack of awareness of the crime and of the relevant laws among front-line officers, particularly in remote areas of the country, adversely affected the government’s ability to respond effectively to trafficking cases. In addition, observers ascribed a higher likelihood of acquittals and dismissals of such cases to backlogs in court, incomplete investigations, insufficient evidence or lack of testimony, and safety concerns among victims and their families. Traditional justice practices involving retribution or informal compensation arrangements between victims’ families and traffickers, continued to supplant formal law enforcement efforts and further complicated victims’ access to justice. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking crimes. Observers reported a national state of emergency due to the pandemic restricted movement among locals, which may have limited the reporting of trafficking crimes; observers reported the government redirected resources, including those related to anti-trafficking efforts, among government agencies as a result of civil unrest in November 2021 and the pandemic, which may have adversely affected the government’s ability to detect and address trafficking.