Fiji is a source country for women and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor, and a transit and destination country for Asian men and women subjected to forced labor and forced prostitution. Fijian women and children are trafficked abroad or in between cities for sexual exploitation and as domestic workers. Fiji’s liberal visa requirements—which allow nationals of 132 nations to enter the country without acquiring a visa—coupled with Fiji’s role as a regional transportation hub, may contribute to Fiji being a transit area for human trafficking. Women from China, Thailand, Malaysia, and other East Asian countries are recruited deceptively in their home countries or while visiting Fiji, sometimes by Chinese criminal organizations. These women reportedly are exploited in illegal brothels (massage parlors and spas), local hotels, private homes, small and informal farms and factories, and other rural and urban locations. Workers from Cambodia, the Philippines, Burma, Indonesia, North Korea, China, Singapore, and other Asian countries are deceptively recruited in their home countries and transit through or board fishing vessels from Fiji ports and waters. They live in poor living conditions, accrue debt larger than promised wages, and work for little or no compensation on foreign fishing vessels, mainly Chinese and Taiwanese, in Pacific waters.
Family members, taxi drivers, foreign tourists, businessmen, and crew on foreign fishing vessels have been alleged to participate in the prostitution of Fijian children. Some Fijian children are at risk of human trafficking as families follow a traditional practice of sending them to live with relatives or families in larger cities; these children may be subjected to domestic servitude or coerced to engage in sexual activity in exchange for food, clothing, shelter, or school fees. Fijian children may also be subjected to forced labor in agriculture, begging, and industrial sectors.
The Government of Fiji does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting period, the Fijian government investigated seven trafficking cases, prosecuted one trafficking offense, and convicted one trafficker. Authorities did not widely implement formal procedures to proactively identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable populations during the year and victim identification declined.
Recommendations for Fiji:
Continue efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and punish trafficking offenders; institute additional training for law enforcement and immigration officers on victim identification and protection; develop and strengthen formal procedures to proactively identify victims of trafficking, especially among vulnerable groups, such as foreign migrant workers on fishing vessels, those allegedly involved in prostitution, and children exploited by local citizens; enhance efforts to provide access to legal, medical, and psychological assistance to victims of trafficking; make efforts to allow identified trafficking victims to work and earn income while assisting with investigations; disseminate more anti-trafficking awareness campaigns directed at clients of child and adult prostitution; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
The Government of Fiji sustained anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The 2009 Crimes Decree includes provisions that prohibit all forms of trafficking. The prescribed penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment, and possible fines of up to the equivalent of approximately $400,000, are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.
In 2013, the anti-trafficking unit investigated seven cases, a decrease from nine investigations during the previous year. The government prosecuted and convicted one trafficker during the reporting period in a case involving three Malaysian nationals subjected to forced prostitution by a Fijian male of Chinese descent. The trafficker was sentenced to 11 years and 9 months’ imprisonment. Prosecution of Fiji’s first internal child sex trafficking case from 2012, which involved two adults accused of child sex trafficking, remained ongoing at the end of this reporting period.
The government continued to fund the police human trafficking unit’s training workshops to detect and investigate trafficking cases. In addition, two-day anti-trafficking workshops were held in the four police divisional districts for isolated police posts and stations. Fijian government officials did not report any investigations or prosecutions of public officials complicit in human trafficking-related offenses during the year.
The Government of Fiji sustained efforts to identify and protect trafficking victims. During the year, the police human trafficking unit identified three victims of trafficking, compared to six victims identified in the previous reporting period. The Immigration Department and the police human trafficking unit continued to use guidelines to identify potential trafficking victims, including at the border. However, the Immigration Department did not proactively identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable populations, such as women and girls in prostitution, foreign workers in spas, women who were deported for breaching visa conditions, and crew members who transit through or board vessels in Fiji ports.
The government continued to rely on NGOs and international organizations to supply long-term care facilities and specialized services for trafficking victims; the government did not allocate or provide funding to shelters for trafficking victims in 2013. The Ministry of Women, Social Welfare, and Poverty Alleviation, however, provided the equivalent of approximately $10,000 to a local NGO shelter to provide food for victims of child trafficking. Trafficking victims are eligible to apply for government legal aid and receive basic medical care, but no victims applied for these provisions during the reporting period. The government provided accommodation, medical care, interpreters, allowances for basic necessities, 24-hour police security, and temporary visas to foreign victims of trafficking. The government deported foreign women in prostitution without screening them for vulnerability to trafficking. The government did not offer permanent residency status for foreign victims, including those who participated in criminal trials.
The Government of Fiji increased efforts to raise public awareness about human trafficking. The Ministry of Women, Social Welfare, and Poverty Alleviation provided the equivalent of approximately $10,000 for an NGO to host a national conference in November 2013 to raise awareness on trafficking. The police human trafficking unit partnered with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in a poster campaign to raise public awareness of trafficking issues. Unit staff also participated in several radio talk shows and major public events on human trafficking. The government published press releases and advertisements in Mandarin, Hindi, and Thai to publicize available government assistance for potential trafficking victims. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or child sex tourism during the reporting period. The government provided anti-trafficking training as a component of human rights training given to Fijian military personnel prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions. Fiji is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.