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SOLOMON ISLANDS (Tier 2 Watch List)

The Government of Solomon Islands does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.  These efforts included developing a communication and implementation strategy for its NAP and raising awareness of trafficking.  However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity.  Authorities did not identify or assist trafficking victims, and protection services remained inadequate.  The government did not initiate any trafficking investigations or prosecutions and, for the third consecutive year, the government did not convict any traffickers.  The government did not administer anti-trafficking training for its police or judicial officials, despite a lack of understanding of trafficking among such officials.  For the fourth consecutive year, the Ministry of Commerce’s Labor Division did not conduct systematic monitoring and inspection activities at logging sites or in the fishing or mining sectors, despite clear indicators of trafficking.  Therefore Solomon Islands was downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List.

  • Investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes, including those involving victims’ family members and complicit officials, and seek adequate penalties for convicted traffickers, which should involve significant prison terms.
  • Increase efforts to identify Solomon Islander and foreign trafficking victims within the country, including in agriculture; the fishing, logging, and mining industries; and in relation to illicit commercial activities.
  • Adopt a comprehensive human trafficking law that criminalizes all forms of the crime and prescribes penalties that are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other grave crimes, and remove sentencing provisions under current laws that allow fines in lieu of imprisonment for sex trafficking crimes occurring outside of Solomon Islands.
  • In collaboration with civil society, screen for trafficking indicators and ensure victims are not inappropriately penalized solely for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked, including among individuals in commercial sex, People’s Republic of China (PRC) nationals employed at worksites affiliated with PRC-based companies, communities located near mining and logging camps, and individuals – including children – apprehended for illegal fishing, desertion from foreign‑registered fishing vessels, illegal logging, or immigration crimes and ensure all identified victims are referred to protection services.
  • Train immigration officials, police, prosecutors, judicial officials, and social service providers on all relevant trafficking laws and victim identification procedures, including at the provincial level.
  • Increase government support for victim protection, including funding for specialized shelter services, benefiting both male and female victims.
  • Implement and fund the 2020-2025 NAP.
  • Collect data on trafficking trends in Solomon Islands and disseminate among interagency anti-trafficking stakeholders.
  • Institute a campaign to raise awareness of trafficking, including among remote logging and mining communities in all provinces.
  • Eliminate recruitment or placement fees charged to workers by labor recruiters and ensure any recruitment fees are paid by employers.
  • Amend existing forestry laws to include minimum social safeguards and child protection policies.
  • Accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

The government decreased 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.  The government did not report an update to its review, in coordination with a regional body, initiated in the previous reporting period of the Immigration Act to identify gaps in trafficking-specific provisions, among others.  In a prior reporting period, the government allocated 920,000 Solomon Islands dollars ($115,737) to develop a comprehensive human trafficking statute and accede to the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and its supplementary protocols, including the UN TIP Protocol; the government did not report adoption of the statute, and it did not accede to the UN TIP Protocol.

The government did not initiate any trafficking investigations, compared with three sex trafficking investigations in the previous reporting period.  Authorities continued three sex trafficking investigations initiated in the previous reporting period, which remained ongoing.  The government did not initiate prosecution of any traffickers, compared with prosecuting one alleged trafficker in the previous reporting period.  Authorities continued two prosecutions initiated in prior years.  For the third consecutive year, the government did not convict any traffickers.  Courts acquitted one alleged trafficker due to evidentiary issues.  In addition, observers ascribed a higher likelihood of acquittals and dismissals of trafficking cases to backlogs in court, incomplete investigations, insufficient evidence or lack of testimony, and safety concerns among victims and their families.  The government did not report any 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.

The Royal Solomon Islands Police Force and Ministry of Commerce’s Immigration Division jointly investigated trafficking crimes; however, the lack of dedicated funding and inadequate resources in the country’s anti-trafficking policy infrastructure reportedly constrained authorities’ ability to investigate trafficking cases.

The government did not report cooperating with foreign counterparts on any law enforcement activities.  Geographic challenges, insufficient funding of enforcement agencies, lack of technical expertise, low judicial and police capacity, and front-line officers’ lack of awareness of trafficking indicators and the relevant laws, particularly in remote areas of the country, hindered the government’s ability to respond to trafficking crimes.  Traditional justice practices, involving retribution or informal compensation arrangements between victims’ families and traffickers, supplanted formal law enforcement efforts and further complicated victims’ access to justice.  The government, in partnership with an international organization, trained immigration officers on various trafficking issues; the government did not provide anti-trafficking training to police, prosecutors, or judicial officials.  The government redirected resources, including those related to anti-trafficking efforts, among government agencies because of the pandemic, which may have adversely affected the government’s ability to detect and address trafficking.

The government decreased efforts to protect trafficking victims.  The government did not identify any trafficking victims, compared with identifying three Solomon Islander child trafficking victims in the previous reporting period.  The government did not implement its victim identification, referral, and protection SOPs developed in partnership with an international organization in a prior reporting period.  Due to a lack of formal identification procedures, authorities may have detained some unidentified trafficking victims.

The government did not assist any victims or refer any for services, compared with referring three child victims in the previous reporting period.  The government reported NGOs could provide health care, counseling, and shelter to trafficking victims; the government did not report providing funding or in-kind resources to NGOs for these services.  The government could not provide specialized care for children or shelter for adult males or labor trafficking victims.  Most trafficking victims identified in prior years came from the provinces, making services exclusively located in Honiara difficult to access.  Observers expressed concern the government sometimes removed victims from trafficking situations without arranging access to shelter or adequate protection services, leaving them vulnerable to re-victimization.  For the second consecutive year, the government did not allocate funding for investigations, public awareness, and victim protection or assistance from the Immigration Division’s budget.

The government did not require victims to participate in investigations or prosecutions to access protection services.  The government could provide protective services, including legal assistance, and welfare support to victims who participated in investigations or prosecutions and victims could obtain employment while participating, but the government did not report doing so during the year.  The government allowed victims to speak with social welfare service providers rather than law enforcement officials during investigations.  The Immigration Act granted the government authority to provide temporary residence permits for foreign victims to assist police with investigations, and it insulated foreign victims against prosecution for immigration offenses committed as a direct result of being trafficked.  The government did not report if it extended these protections to foreign victims whose cases authorities investigated under the penal code.  The government did not report providing these or other services to any foreign victims, as it did not identify any.  Some unidentified foreign victims may have opted to return to their home countries due to lengthy legal processes, fear of retaliation by traffickers or prosecution by police, and a lack of incentives to remain and participate in cases.  In prior years, observers noted insufficiencies in protection services likely discouraged some victims from testifying in court proceedings, thereby hindering prosecutorial progress.  The government reported trafficking victims could seek compensation from traffickers through civil suits, although it reported no victims had ever filed such suits.  The government did not maintain a victim compensation fund.  The government did not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign trafficking victims to countries where they might face retribution or hardship.

The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking.  The Anti-Human Trafficking Advisory Committee, which included government agencies and members of civil society, led the country’s anti-trafficking efforts and met quarterly.  However, government officials reported a lack of information sharing among stakeholders hindered anti-trafficking efforts.  The government developed a communication and implementation strategy to implement its NAP against Human Trafficking and People Smuggling 2020-2025.  Unlike the previous reporting period, the government, in partnership with international organizations and NGOs, raised awareness of trafficking by disseminating information online and through radio programs, posters, and brochures.  For the second consecutive year, the Immigration Division did not report conducting any awareness-raising activities targeting communities near logging or mining operations.

The government did not take steps to research and assess the scope of its trafficking problem.  The government did not report implementing a policy framework, developed in partnership with international organizations during the previous reporting period, to set minimum terms and conditions for crewmembers working on licensed foreign and domestic-flagged fishing vessels operating in Solomon Islands’ waters in an effort to address trafficking risks among crewmembers.  The government did not report taking comprehensive measures to assess or address labor trafficking in supply chains or enforce its labor laws.  For the fourth consecutive year, the Labor Division did not report conducting any monitoring or inspection activities at logging operations or in the fishing or mining sectors despite continued reports of trafficking indicators in these sectors.  The government did not prohibit worker-paid recruitment fees, which contributed to debt-based coercion among foreign workers.  In prior years, forestry officials reported the lack of industry regulation and laws outlining child protection and social safeguards prevented them from detecting and investigating potential abuses, including trafficking, related to logging operations’ impact on local communities.  The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel.  The government did not operate or support an anti‑trafficking hotline.  The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.  Solomon Islands was not a party to the UN TIP Protocol; however, the government reported ongoing efforts, in partnership with an international organization, to accede to the UNTOC and its supplementary protocols, including the UN TIP Protocol.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Solomon Islands, and traffickers exploit victims from Solomon Islands abroad.  Traffickers also use Solomon Islands as a transit point to move victims to other countries.  Seventy-five percent of workers work in the informal economy where labor laws are not enforced, increasing vulnerability to trafficking.  Traffickers exploit local, South Asian, and Southeast Asian men and women in labor and sex trafficking in Solomon Islands, and local children are especially vulnerable to labor and sex trafficking.  Women from the PRC, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines often pay large recruitment fees for jobs in Solomon Islands and upon arrival are forced or coerced into commercial sex.  Labor traffickers exploit men from Indonesia and Malaysia in the logging, fishing, palm oil, and mining industries.  Fishermen from Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Fiji report situations indicative of labor trafficking, including non-payment of wages, dire living conditions, violence, and limited food supply, on Taiwan-flagged fishing vessels in Solomon Islands’ territorial waters and ports.  Individuals from the PRC may have been forced to work in Solomon Islands at projects run by PRC‑based companies and at businesses owned by PRC nationals.  Traffickers exploit Solomon Islander children in labor and sex trafficking within the country, sometimes in exchange for money or goods, particularly near foreign logging camps, on foreign and local commercial fishing vessels, and at hotels, casinos, nightclubs, and other entertainment establishments.  The inflow of a cash economic system, coupled with the continuation of an unregulated logging industry, has increased vulnerability to trafficking in remote communities, specifically for women and children.  Contacts have observed a recent increase in commercial sex – and a concomitant uptick in sex trafficking – resulting from certain economic changes.  Family members are often the facilitators of such transactional agreements.  Women and girls may be at risk of debt-based coercion in sex trafficking and domestic servitude via the customary practice of “bride-price,” money or chattel the husband’s family pays to the wife’s family.  Natural disasters significantly increase Solomon Islanders’ vulnerability to trafficking; Solomon Islanders affected by a cyclone in 2020 may be at higher risk of trafficking due to economic hardships the destruction caused.  Anecdotal reporting showed an increase in the sexual exploitation of girls, some of whom may have been sex trafficking victims, as many returned to remote villages because of the pandemic.

Some official corruption – especially in relation to facilitating irregular migration and involvement in the fishing and forestry sectors – may facilitate trafficking.  Some boys, girls, and young women are recruited for domestic work and subsequently exploited in commercial sex at logging camps.  Under informal or traditional justice practices, parents frequently receive payments for sending young women and girls into forced marriages with foreign workers at logging and mining companies, where many of them are exploited in domestic servitude or sex trafficking.  Often these payments are rendered after the victims escape or are returned home as informal compensation that local leadership broker.  In this way, local community leaders may also benefit financially from these arrangements.  Mining and logging camp leadership reportedly force boys to serve as solairs – illicit brokers procuring girls for sexual and domestic service in worker lodging facilities – and logging camp personnel force young males to work as domestic servants and cooks.  Following the government’s decision to cease issuance of new logging licenses, a decline in the industry has contributed to an increase in internal economic migration of communities located in former logging areas; these displaced communities may be at higher risk of labor trafficking.  Elsewhere, Solomon Islander children may be exploited in labor trafficking in the agricultural sector, forced harvesting of seafood, and forced criminality in the manufacturing and transportation of drugs and in pickpocketing.  Widespread social stigma against LGBTQI+ individuals increase their vulnerability to trafficking.  Anecdotal reports show an increase in children involved in street vending, begging, and pickpocketing during the pandemic.  To pay off debts, some parents reportedly sell their children to other families via “informal adoption” that often involves forced labor or sexual servitude.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future