Papua New Guinea
PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Tier 3
Papua New Guinea is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Foreign and local women and children are subjected to sex trafficking, domestic servitude, and forced begging or street vending. Foreign and local men are subjected to forced labor in logging and mining camps as well as on fishing vessels operating in Papua New Guinea’s exclusive economic zone. An estimated 19 percent of the country’s labor market is comprised of child workers—some of whom are subjected to forced labor or prostitution. “Mosko Girls” —young girls employed in bars to provide companionship to patrons and sell an alcoholic drink called mosko—are vulnerable to human trafficking, especially around major cities. NGO sources indicated that the number of children exploited in prostitution increased by 30 percent in 2013. Boys as young as 12 years old are exploited as “market taxis” in urban areas and required to carry extremely heavy loads for low pay; some may be victims of forced labor. Parents force children to beg or sell goods on the street as sources of income. Within the country, women and girls from rural areas are deceived with promises of legitimate work to travel to different provinces where they are subjected to sex trafficking. Children, including girls from tribal areas as young as 5 years old, are reportedly subjected to sex trafficking or forced labor by members of their immediate family or tribe. Tribal leaders reportedly trade with each other the exploitative labor and service of girls and women for guns and to forge political alliances. Traditional customs permit parents to sell or give away their daughters for forced marriages—often to wealthy men and politicians—to settle debts or as peace offerings, leaving the girls vulnerable to domestic servitude. Young girls sold into polygamous marriages may be forced into domestic service for their husbands’ extended families. In urban areas, parents reportedly prostitute their children directly or in brothels as a means to support their families or to pay for school fees. Government officials reportedly facilitate trafficking by accepting bribes to allow undocumented migrants to enter the country or ignore trafficking situations, and some may procure trafficking victims for other individuals in return for political favors or votes.
Malaysian and Chinese logging companies and foreign businesspeople arrange for some foreign women to enter the country voluntarily with fraudulently issued tourist or business visas. After their arrival, many of these women—from countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, China, and the Philippines—are turned over to traffickers who transport them to logging and mining camps, fisheries, and entertainment sites, and exploit them in forced prostitution and domestic servitude. Chinese, Malaysian, and local men are subjected to forced labor at commercial mines and logging camps, where some receive little pay and are compelled to continue working for the company indefinitely through debt bondage. Employers exacerbate workers’ indebtedness by paying extremely low wages, which compel employees to purchase food and other necessities from the employers at usurious interest rates.
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. During the reporting period, the government assisted an international organization in the identification of 21 victims of labor trafficking on fishing vessels and referred them to civil society organizations to receive assistance. This was a significant increase from victims identified in the previous year; however, authorities then arrested and sentenced 12 of the victims to prison for illegal entry into the country. The government did not prosecute any trafficking offenses or convict any traffickers; nor did it provide financial or in-kind support for any protective services. The national action plan, drafted during the previous reporting period, was not approved or implemented.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PAPUA NEW GUINEA:
Finalize and fully implement formal procedures to identify victims among vulnerable groups, guide their subsequent referral to care, and ensure victims do not face arrest, deportation, or other punishment for acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; train law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges on human trafficking and the criminal code’s trafficking provisions; investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and punish traffickers, including parents and officials who facilitate or directly benefit from trafficking; approve and implement the anti-trafficking national plan of action; train law enforcement officers on victim identification and referral procedures and ensure their ability to effectively and appropriately conduct victim interviews; allocate sufficient resources to the National Human Trafficking Committee for anti-trafficking awareness campaigns and trainings; work with NGOs and international organizations to increase protective services for victims of trafficking; increase collaboration with civil society, private sector, religious, and tribal leaders to raise awareness of and reduce demand for forced labor and commercial sex acts, especially of children; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
The government did not prosecute or convict any traffickers during the reporting period. The Criminal Code Amendment of 2013 prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties for adult sex and labor trafficking of up to 20 years’ imprisonment and for child sex and labor trafficking of up to 25 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.
The government initiated investigations into two cases of sex trafficking involving Papua New Guinean women and children. Although government officials assisted an international organization in the identification of trafficking victims on foreign fishing vessels in two separate incidents in 2015, they failed to investigate alleged trafficking offenses in these cases. The government did not prosecute any trafficking offenses or convict any traffickers. Cases from previous years appear to have been dropped due to lack of evidence. Government officials often did not prosecute trafficking-related crimes in criminal courts; rather, trafficking-related cases were often referred to village courts, which administered customary law. Cases adjudicated in these courts sometimes resulted in restitution paid by the trafficker to the victim, but village courts did not order imprisonment of offenders. Some victims of internal trafficking who received compensation from the trafficker, or their parents, were reluctant to notify police to pursue criminal charges against traffickers.
With foreign funding, the Department of Justice and Attorney General included human trafficking in its country-wide training programs, and the customs service conducted anti-trafficking training for officials in Kokopo in September 2015. Nonetheless, provincial officials’ limited understanding of trafficking hindered effective law enforcement activity. The government continued to underfund law enforcement agencies and most government offices remained weak as a result of corruption, cronyism, a lack of accountability, and a promotion system based on patronage. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses, although some public officials allegedly condone, are engaged in, or benefit from sex trafficking.
The government’s victim protection efforts were mixed; although it assisted in the identification of more victims, it subjected some identified victims to punishment for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking. Through cooperation with an international organization, the government assisted in the identification of 21 victims, a medical professional identified one victim, and an international organization identified nine victims; no victims were identified in 2014. Among the identified victims, six Papua New Guinean women and two Papua New Guinean girls were subjected to sex trafficking, while two men from Papua New Guinea were subjected to forced labor in a motel and 20 men and one boy from Burma, Cambodia, and Vietnam were subjected to forced labor on fishing vessels. The government continued to lack formal procedures for victim identification and referral, although it drafted and piloted standard operating procedures for a national referral mechanism. The government referred identified victims on an ad hoc basis to NGOs and international organizations, which provided medical and shelter services without financial or in-kind support from the government. Authorities imprisoned 12 Vietnamese victims of labor trafficking on charges of illegal entry into the country and illegal fishing activities; they were released from prison and repatriated by an international organization in March 2016. Local media outlets published photographs of the victims, characterizing them as undocumented migrants. There were no services in the country specifically tailored to the needs of trafficking victims. The law provides legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims of trafficking to countries where they may face hardship or retribution, but no victim was afforded this protection in 2015. The government allowed “ongoing stay” for trafficking victims, but lacked provisions for victims to seek compensation through civil suits. One victim assisted in an investigation during the reporting period.
The government took limited steps to prevent human trafficking. The National Human Trafficking Committee met four times in 2015, but a national plan of action, drafted during the previous reporting period, was not formally approved or implemented. Following the identification of trafficking victims aboard a foreign vessel detained in Papua New Guinea, the prime minister made public statements denouncing this crime and pledging the government’s commitment to identifying victims and holding traffickers accountable. The government took no discernible actions to decrease the demand for forced labor or commercial sex acts. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel. Papua New Guinea is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.