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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, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Papua New Guinea was downgraded to Tier 3.  Despite the lack of significant efforts, the government took some steps to address trafficking, including investigating government complicity in a sex trafficking syndicate.  However, the government did not prosecute or convict any traffickers.  Authorities did not identify or assist trafficking victims and often deported potential victims without screening for trafficking indicators.  Endemic corruption and complicity among officials, particularly in the logging and fishing sectors, continued to facilitate vulnerability to human trafficking among foreign and local populations.  The government did not conduct public awareness campaigns or administer systematic anti-trafficking training for its law enforcement officials, despite a limited understanding of trafficking among such officials.  A continued 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. 

  • Allocate resources, including dedicated staff, to government agencies to update, disseminate, and systematically implement existing SOPs for victim identification, referral, and protection and widely train police, immigration, and customs enforcement officers on implementing the SOPs.
  • Investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes, including those involving victims’ family members and officials who facilitate or directly benefit from trafficking, and seek adequate penalties for convicted traffickers, which should involve significant prison terms.
  • Develop, adopt, and implement an updated anti-trafficking NAP and allocate dedicated funding and resources to its implementation. 
  • Amend the criminal code to criminalize child sex trafficking without elements of force, fraud, or coercion, consistent with international law.
  • In collaboration with civil society, screen for trafficking indicators among vulnerable groups, including IDPs, People’s Republic of China (PRC) nationals employed at worksites affiliated with PRC-based companies, 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.
  • Improve victim identification and intra-governmental coordination to ensure victims are not inappropriately penalized solely for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.
  • Refer all identified victims to appropriate services.
  • Provide all identified victims state-funded assistance, regardless of their participation in prosecution proceedings, and include long-term assistance, particularly long-term reintegration support, such as education, counseling, and job-placement. 
  • Increase protective services for trafficking victims in partnership with NGOs and international organizations.
  • Strengthen the National Anti-Human Trafficking Committee (NAHTC) 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.
  • Increase coordination and collaboration between Immigration and Citizenship Authority (ICA) and the Department of Justice and Attorney General (DJAG) to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases.
  • Increase oversight and regulation of the logging and fishing sectors, including by dedicating funding and resources to increasing manpower and surveillance monitoring equipment and penalizing government officials for taking bribes, which hinder anti-trafficking efforts in these sectors.
  • Educate government stakeholders on the process to designate an individual as a trafficking victim and simplify the process for doing so.
  • 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. 
  • Accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol. 

The government decreased 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 investigated two sex trafficking cases, the same as the previous reporting period.  The government did not report any trafficking prosecutions, compared with four prosecutions the previous reporting period.  The government did not report an update on the four prosecutions from the previous year or on an ongoing prosecution from 2018.  For the second consecutive year, the government did not report any trafficking convictions.  Authorities arrested and charged a PRC national woman for alleged involvement in a sex trafficking ring; however, the government did not investigate the commercial sex activity, withdrew the charges, and deported the foreign national.  Observers ascribed poor prosecutorial efforts to widespread observance of customary justice practices; fear of retribution; distrust of law enforcement among victims; and insufficient resources and political will among law enforcement to conduct investigations, particularly in rural areas.  Customs officials reported lack of manpower, monitoring and surveillance equipment, and funding impaired anti-trafficking monitoring efforts for labor or sex trafficking on vessels in Papua New Guinea waters.  Government officials reported citizens regularly paid for fuel for police vehicles to facilitate responses to incidents.  Observers reported an underfunded and undertrained police force exacerbated the country’s pervasive threat of violence and lawlessness. 

The government did not report an update on investigations initiated during the previous reporting period of six suspended ICA officers, including three from the visa and passports division, who allegedly engaged in misconduct regarding visa applications which increased foreign nationals’ vulnerability to trafficking.  In January 2023, media reports alleged involvement of several senior police officials in a sex trafficking syndicate; senior government officials confirmed the allegation and reported authorities initiated an investigation.  The government did not report any other investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking crimes; however, corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action.  During the previous reporting period, government officials reported law enforcement accepted bribes from incoming vessels in Papua New Guinea waters and logging companies, which greatly hindered anti-trafficking efforts in those industries.  Logging companies bribed officials to bypass inspections and not take law enforcement action against employees accused of crimes, such as sexual abuse and exploitation, including potential trafficking crimes.  Enforcement agencies and most government offices remained weak as a result of underfunding, corruption, cronyism, lack of accountability, and a promotion system based on patronage. 

The government did not report cooperating with foreign counterparts on any law enforcement activities.  National and provincial officials’ limited understanding of trafficking – including on anti-trafficking laws, trafficking indicators, and investigative techniques – continued to hinder effective law enforcement activity.  Senior government officials remained unaware of trafficking, including of their respective agencies’ own anti-trafficking efforts, and regularly conflated migrant smuggling and human trafficking.  In addition, government officials reported judicial sector officials lacked awareness of trafficking and needed training.  For the second consecutive year, the government did not report any anti-trafficking training activities for its officials. 

The government did not report any efforts to identify or assist victims.  The government did not report identifying any trafficking victims, compared with identifying one child sex trafficking victim in the previous reporting period.  The government had victim identification and referral SOPs but did not report implementing them and continued to lack a written procedural guide for implementation as previously recommended in its expired NAP; general awareness of the SOPs among front-line officers remained limited.  In addition, the SOPs did not contain adequate measures to screen for trafficking indicators among LGBTQI+ individuals or adults arrested for commercial sex.  A media report indicated authorities referred 18 potential trafficking victims to an NGO in 2022; 15 were foreign nationals and three were local girls. 

The government did not report assisting any victims or funding victim protection services.  Civil society organizations, without financial or in-kind support from the government, could provide medical and short-term shelter services to victims.  Women and child victims could receive services through NGO-run gender-based violence (GBV) programs, and while male victims could receive ad hoc services through NGOs, there were no government or NGO services specifically tailored to the needs of trafficking victims.  Observers reported GBV and child protection cases referred to family sexual violence units may have involved unidentified trafficking victims due to a lack of resources and awareness of trafficking indicators among police.  The government continued to lack a structured plan to identify or refer victims among vulnerable communities or among communities displaced as a result of conflict or natural disasters.  Logging and mining sites primarily operated in remote regions with limited or no government oversight.  In the previous reporting period, ICA reported allegations of mistreatment and pay discrepancies among workers while conducting immigration enforcement spot checks at logging camps; however, the government did not report acting against illegal logging sites or report any efforts to identify sex or labor trafficking victims at such sites. 

The criminal code provided guidance to protect foreign victims from punishment for immigration offenses committed solely as a direct result of being trafficked; however, authorities likely arrested or deported some unidentified trafficking victims for such crimes due to ineffective victim identification, poor interagency coordination, and the requirement for a court to formally determine an individual as a trafficking victim.  Observers reported authorities lacked training and general awareness of human trafficking and the SOPs, and routinely deported potential victims, including individuals in commercial sex, without screening for trafficking indicators.  In prior years, observers reported a law allowing officials to apprehend foreign fishermen for desertion in port may have dissuaded some forced labor victims from escaping and reporting their abuses.  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.  The law continued to lack provisions for victims to seek compensation through civil suits.  The government did not operate or support an anti-trafficking hotline, and reports of suspected trafficking crimes had to be made either in person at a police station or emailed to the NAHTC and the Department of Justice and Attorney General; therefore, the ability to report trafficking cases for law enforcement action was limited. 

The government did not report any efforts to prevent trafficking.  The NAHTC did not report meeting and continued to lack sufficient resources and commitment from the government.  The government did not appoint specific committee members to represent relevant agencies and effectively excluded non-governmental stakeholders.  Government officials reported a lack of interagency coordination hindered anti-trafficking efforts.  The government did not report allocating dedicated funding or resources to implement or update its expired NAP. 

The government did not report conducting any anti-trafficking awareness campaigns.  The government continued to lack effective policies to regulate foreign labor recruiters or hold them liable for fraudulent recruitment practices.  With no more than two labor inspectors per province, inadequate resources, and endemic corruption, the government did not take adequate steps to prevent forced labor in the logging industry.  Authorities reportedly issued forestry permits in violation of pre-existing land ownership rights and, without further oversight, led to the displacement and heightened vulnerability of Indigenous communities and an increased risk of labor trafficking among forestry workers.  The government did not report providing anti-trafficking training to its labor inspectors.  The government did not allow migrant workers to change employers without a new work permit.  The government did not report regulating recruitment fees, which continued to contribute to debt-based coercion among foreign workers.  The government did not report providing anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel.  The government did not report providing anti-trafficking training to its troops prior to their deployment as peacekeepers.  The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.  Papua New Guinea was not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol. 

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Papua New Guinea, and traffickers exploit victims from Papua New Guinea abroad.  Traffickers use Papua New Guinea as a transit point to exploit foreign individuals in other countries.  Traffickers exploit foreign national women and local women and children in sex trafficking and in forced labor in domestic service, 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 younger than the age of 18, with some as young as 10 years old.  Immediate family or tribe members reportedly exploit children in 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.  The closing of traditional travel routes due to pandemic-related border control restrictions and the imposition of new and complex requirements for entry may have increased the vulnerability to trafficking among foreign migrant workers.  Anecdotal reports show an increase in online child sexual exploitation, some of which may be child sex trafficking, in connection with an increased use of the internet during the pandemic.  City-dwelling families reportedly convince a relative to live with them and then exploit them in domestic servitude. 

Marriages in Papua New Guinea commonly involve a “bride price” of money or chattel paid to the wife’s family by the husband’s family, who use the bride price as debt to compel the woman to remain in abusive or servile marriages.  Some parents reportedly transfer their children – some as young as 12to other families via informal paid adoption arrangements that, absent monitoring or registration practices, increase their risk of trafficking; 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 another.  Traffickers exploit 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.  Adolescent boys are also increasingly involved in inter-tribal and intercommunal armed conflict, possibly via forcible recruitment by local leadership.  Individuals – particularly women and girls – displaced as a result of frequent natural disasters and communal conflict are at higher risk of trafficking due to poor or nonexistent IDP camp security and loss of livelihoods.  Asylum-seekers detained in Papua New Guinea for attempting to reach Australia by boat may have increased vulnerability to forced labor or sex trafficking due to displacement, economic instability, and lack of access to basic resources and community support networks.  International observers report increasing intercommunal tensions resulting from 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 PRC-based 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 foreign-owned logging sites.  After their arrival, many of these women – from countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the PRC, 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.  Men from the PRC may have been forced to work in Papua New Guinea at projects run by PRC-based companies.  Traffickers force PRC national, Malaysian, and local men to work at commercial mines and logging camps.  Burmese, Cambodian, PRC national, 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 manipulate to coerce 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 forced criminality.  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 may abet 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.  LGBTQI+ individuals are vulnerable to trafficking.  Anecdotal reports show heightened risks of sexual exploitation in commercial sex – including heightened risks of child sex trafficking – which may be due to pandemic-related economic impacts. 

U.S. Department of State

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