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, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Fiji remained on Tier 2.  These efforts included investigating more trafficking cases and prosecuting more traffickers.  The government also identified more trafficking victims.  However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas.  The government did not report whether victims received services and did not have adequate shelter services for adult victims.  The government did not convict any traffickers. 

  • Draft, finalize, and implement the formal SOPs for victim identification and referral 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, including those of individuals complicit in child sex trafficking on private yachts and in hotels, and seek adequate penalties for convicted traffickers, which should involve significant prison terms.
  • Amend trafficking-related provisions of the 2009 Crimes Act to criminalize all forms of trafficking and immigration-related provisions to enable identified foreign victims to work and earn income while assisting with investigations and provide a legal alternative to victims’ removal to countries where they may face retribution or hardship.
  • Provide comprehensive services to victims 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.
  • 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.
  • Increase dissemination of labor and sex trafficking awareness campaigns, including to raise awareness of sex trafficking laws among foreign tourists.

The government increased 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.

Police initiated six trafficking investigations, all of which involved forced labor, and continued 11 trafficking investigations from previous reporting periods, an increase compared with initiating three investigations in the previous reporting period.  The government initiated prosecution of two alleged traffickers and continued prosecution of an unknown number of alleged traffickers from previous reporting periods, compared with initiating prosecution of one alleged trafficker in the previous reporting period.  Courts did not convict any traffickers, compared with convicting one trafficker in the previous reporting period.  In June 2022, courts overturned the conviction of one trafficker on an appeal.

The police’s Anti-Human Trafficking Unit (HTU) led the government’s antitrafficking law enforcement efforts, in partnership with the Fiji Immigration Department (FID) and the Fiji Ministry of Employment, Productivity, and Industrial Relations (MEPIR) on cases relating to cross-border trafficking and labor exploitation.  However, police did not proactively investigate trafficking cases consistently and the government has only successfully prosecuted 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 in previous reporting periods.  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, this 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 and witness support as weakening the success of prosecutions.

The HTU trained police recruits on trafficking; however, observers reported the one-day anti-trafficking trainings were insufficient.  Law enforcement officials often were not aware of the definition of trafficking, procedures for interviewing victims, or how to proactively identify victims.  The HTU did not complete the SOPs for investigating trafficking cases it began drafting in previous reporting periods.  The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking crimes; the government did not report taking any action in an investigation, which the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption initiated in February 2021, of an immigration official in a suspected trafficking case.

The government maintained protection efforts.  The government reported identifying 28 labor trafficking victims, compared with identifying 11 victims (two exploited in sex trafficking and nine in unspecified forms of trafficking) in the previous reporting period.  All trafficking victims could access protection services regardless of participation in an investigation, but the government did not report whether it provided services to any; this compared with the government providing shelter and access to basic essentials to an unknown number of victims in the previous reporting period.  Government officials increased efforts to proactively screen vulnerable populations, including children, for trafficking indicators; a police children’s unit and the Department of Social Welfare (DSW) actively screened children referred to their services for trafficking indicators and referred cases to the HTU for investigation.  The government did not have formal victim identification procedures for all relevant agencies’ use.  In July 2022, the government, in partnership with an NGO, hosted a workshop on an NRM, which it began developing in March 2022 in consultation with NGOs and an international organization; however, the government did not finalize the NRM by the end of the reporting period.  The Ministry of Defense, National Security, and Policing operated a Case Management Coordinator office (CMC) and a case management mechanism with formal procedures for officials to refer victims to the CMC.  The CMC was responsible for coordinating victim support and overseeing the progression of investigations and prosecutions.  The CMC oversaw one case compared with not overseeing any cases in the previous reporting period.

The government made accommodation, legal aid, medical care, and interpreters available to survivors and made 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 trafficking victims; therefore, victims often relied on NGOs, with whom the government had informal partnerships, for services.  In addition, a lack of resources for interpretation services for foreign victims impeded their access to psycho-social care.  The government did not operate any trafficking-specific shelters.  However, the government could shelter victims younger than 21 under the custody of DSW, which operated four children’s homes in Suva and Lautoka.  The government also provided support to faithbased organizations to provide shelter to some adult trafficking victims.  FID operated safehouses for foreign individuals awaiting deportation, including trafficking victims.  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.  The government reported preparing amendments to the immigration law to incorporate provisions allowing foreign victims to stay and work for up to three years; the draft amendments remained pending at the end of the reporting period.  The government collaborated with a foreign government to repatriate one Fijian female victim.

The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking.  The Interagency National Trafficking Committee, composed of government officials, international organizations, and civil society organizations, coordinated the government’s anti-trafficking efforts.  The government continued to implement the 2021-2026 anti-trafficking NAP and allocated funding and personnel to its activities.  The government did not report conducting awareness raising efforts, but anti-trafficking materials developed in previous reporting periods were available.  The government continued to operate a national hotline for victims of domestic violence and child abuse, which victims could use to report trafficking crimes and seek services; the government did not report whether any calls to the hotline resulted in trafficking investigations or identification of victims.

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.  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 train inspectors on the enforcement of laws related to child labor. The government did not report how many labor inspections it conducted in 2022 or 2021, compared with 843 inspections in 2020, nor did it identify any child labor violations in 2022 or 2021 (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 ($9,190), have their supervising officials 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 did not train diplomatic personnel on trafficking.  The government incorporated training on sexual exploitation into predeployment training but did not provide trafficking-specific training to Fijian military personnel prior to their deployment abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions.

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 exploit victims in illegal 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 who were driven to use 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 of 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, 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 lowlevel official complicity impeded anti-trafficking efforts.  Corruption among some officials prevented the investigation of trafficking, including in PRCnational-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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