KIRIBATI: Tier 2
Kiribati is a source country for girls subjected to sex trafficking within the country. Visiting ship crew members, mainly Asian men, exploit children and some women in prostitution. A local NGO reported that as many as 20 I-Kiribati girls, some as young as 15, may be exploited in prostitution in local bars and hotels. Some I-Kiribati—including family members of potential victims, older women, and hotel and bar workers—may facilitate the exploitation of girls in sex trafficking by providing a venue for prostitution. Others fail to assist trafficking victims or alert authorities to situations of child prostitution. These girls generally receive financial support, food, alcohol, or goods in exchange for sexual services.
The Government of Kiribati 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, government officials continued to acknowledge the existence and gravity of child sexual exploitation, including trafficking, and expressed their commitment to combating the crime. Police conducted a two-day training to educate police officers and prosecutors on trafficking and partnered with an international organization on a campaign to reduce the demand for commercial sex. Overall, however, the government continued to be negligent, failing to employ procedures to proactively identify victims among girls in prostitution, provide assistance to any victims, or refer them to or support organizations that did so. The government did not prosecute cases against potential traffickers or punish those who exploited or facilitated the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR KIRIBATI:
Investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish foreign crew members for the commercial sexual exploitation of children; develop procedures for law enforcement officers and social service providers to interview women and children intercepted en route to or aboard international vessels or at local bars and hotels for evidence of trafficking; establish formal procedures for the identification of trafficking victims and their subsequent referral to domestic violence and sexual violence officers for care; train front-line officers, including law enforcement, on victim identification techniques and procedures, and a victim-centered approach to facilitate increased trust between victims and officers; hold parents and guardians accountable, as appropriate under I-Kiribati law—including the 2013 Children, Young People and Family Welfare Act—for the prostitution of children; employ consistent and rehabilitative care for children who may be at-risk of trafficking; expand efforts to raise awareness about the dangers of human trafficking in locations where trafficking victims interact with clients, specifically aimed to increase public recognition that children in the commercial sex trade are trafficking victims rather than juvenile delinquents; and increase efforts to raise awareness to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.
The government made limited law enforcement efforts to combat human trafficking. Kiribati’s Measures to Combat Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime Act, as amended in 2008, criminalizes certain forms of human trafficking, prescribing penalties of up to 15 years’ imprisonment for the trafficking of adults and 20 years’ imprisonment for the trafficking of children. These penalties are sufficiently stringent, but not commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The law’s focus is limited to the international movement of people for exploitation, a form of trafficking not known to occur in Kiribati. The government claimed internal trafficking could be prosecuted under this law; however, there are no reports to indicate it has ever been attempted. The government did not conduct any investigations in 2014, compared with two investigations conducted against foreign fishing vessel owners in 2013. In 2014, police conducted a two-day training for 22 police officers and a prosecutor on the legal definition of trafficking and the significance of victims’ testimony in a prosecution. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses.
The government made no discernible efforts to protect trafficking victims, failing to identify or assist any victims in 2014. The government remained without procedures to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations. Police may have encountered girls exploited by sex traffickers and clients in well-known meeting places, such as bars and hotels in Kiribati; however, government officials did not formally screen or identify any trafficking victims among them, nor provide them with any protective or rehabilitative services. The government reported victims could be referred to religious organizations to access medical and psychological services on an ad hoc basis; however, for the third consecutive year, it failed to refer any victims to such services or provide funding to these organizations. The Measures to Combat Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime Act’s victim protection provisions shield victims from prosecution for immigration crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; however, law enforcement efforts to combat prostitution potentially resulted in some trafficking victims being treated as law violators. Officials did not screen individuals detained for prostitution-related crimes to determine whether they were trafficking victims or verify their ages. The government did not develop or implement a referral process to transfer potential victims who are detained, arrested, or placed in protective custody by law enforcement authorities to institutions that provide short- or long-term care. The Kiribati Immigration Ordinance gives the principal immigration officer the option to make exceptions or extensions to standard immigration rules in exigent circumstances, such as trafficking; given the lack of identified foreign victims, this provision remained unused.
The government made limited efforts to prevent human trafficking. The Ministry of Internal and Social Affairs, in partnership with an international organization, continued to broadcast a radio show on child protection issues, including the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The Police Department’s Domestic Violence and Sexual Offenses unit continued to operate two 24-hour hotlines for reporting exploitation and abuse, though no known allegations of human trafficking were received. The Kiribati Police Force received child protection training from and worked with an international organization to develop a child-friendly community policing protocol, including a referral and counseling program for youth. While foreign fishing license regulations hold ship captains accountable for the presence of unauthorized persons, including girls and women, on their vessels, the enforcement of these regulations did not result in the prosecution of traffickers or protection of victims. The government lacks a national plan of action or a coordinating government agency to combat trafficking. The Ministry of Labor reported reviewing the contracts of all I-Kiribati going overseas and conducting pre-departure briefings to ensure that workers were aware of their rights and able to protect themselves from potential forced labor. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel. The government did not make efforts to address child sex tourism in the country.