Understanding Human Trafficking in the Solomon Islands
The Solomon Islands is a country in Oceania located to the east of Papua New Guinea. Trends show that human trafficking in the Solomon Islands occurs mostly in logging camps and fishing sectors, but some are implementing significant efforts to eliminate it.
Human trafficking in the Solomon Islands is most common in the logging camps and fishing boats, which are two primary sources of income for the country. Trafficking in these areas mostly revolves around the sexual exploitation of women and girls. Another concern of the U.S Department of State is child sex tourism.
According to the 2021 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, which ranks countries as belonging to one of four tiers in their efforts to combat trafficking, the Solomon Islands are a Tier 2 country. This rating means that while the government is making significant efforts to comply with the standards set in place by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), it is not fully meeting the standards.
In September 2010, the American Bar Association set out to prevent and reduce human trafficking in the Solomon Islands with the help of the Department of State. The program aims for these five goals:
- Raise people’s awareness of human trafficking and provide education on how to prevent it.
- Improve protection for both witnesses and victims.
- Increase access to better support services for human trafficking survivors.
- Develop laws or policies to deter human trafficking.
- Find lawyers to serve as human trafficking experts within the Solomon Islands.
The pandemic did not hinder the efforts toward ending human trafficking in the Solomon Islands. In fact, the Anti-Human Trafficking Advisory Committee (AHTAC), consisting of government agencies and citizens, met frequently despite the challenges that the pandemic presented.
Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare raised concern about human trafficking in a national address. Sogavare was concerned with trafficking in the fishing sector and announced that his government, along with international organizations, would be working on creating policies that aimed to erase sexual exploitation and modern slavery on fishing vessels operating in the Solomon Islands’ waters. According to an international organization, this address was the first time many Solomon Island citizens heard the term “human trafficking.” In the address, Sogavare also announced the completion of the National Security Strategy and National Border Strategy, which focused on migration, transnational crime, labor, trade, employment and investment, and their relationship to trafficking.
The Department of Immigration (DOI), together with the Solomon Islands Forestry Association, conducts campaigns to raise awareness about human trafficking near logging and mining sites. The campaigns focus on the consequences for those involved in human trafficking and the country’s trafficking laws.
Progress in Protection
Over the course of the pandemic, law enforcement individuals are still receiving training on victim identification and support. In 2018, authorities identified 39 potential trafficking victims and five in 2019 compared with four identified victims in 2020. One of the four victims was a foreigner living in the Solomon Islands and the other three were Solomon Islands citizens that were out of the country. Although internal sex trafficking is reportedly common, authorities did not identify any cases of sex trafficking.
In 2019, the Solomon Islands government gave $50,000 of its yearly budget to human trafficking victim care and shelter services. Despite problems and restraints caused by the pandemic, the government was still able to give $49,130 towards victim care, protection, investigation efforts and public education about human trafficking in the Solomon Islands in 2020.
The Royal Solomon Islands Police chose the capital, Honiara, as the site for a domestic violence shelter that provides aid to women and children that were sex trafficking victims. However, the government failed to provide support for adult male victims or victims of labor trafficking. Due to the location of the shelter, the protection services are difficult to access because most trafficking victims come from the provinces. The deficiencies in protection services for victims of human trafficking in the Solomon Islands likely led to fewer victims coming forward, and therefore, fewer prosecutions.
In recent years, the Solomon Islands government has worked to bring an end to human trafficking within its borders. Although work still needs to occur, policies and programs are in place to bring the country closer to eliminating human trafficking.
– Trystin Baker