Human Trafficking in Papua New GuineaPapua New Guinea is a cluster of islands located near Indonesia with a population of 9.8 million. In 2022, the State Department classified the country as a Tier 2 nation, which indicates that while the government is making significant strides to eliminate human trafficking, it has not yet met the minimum requirements to do so. The people of Papua New Guinea are at an increased risk for human trafficking, which includes sex trafficking and forced labor. Approximately 30% of the victims of human trafficking in Papua New Guinea are under the age of 18. Typically, their families are responsible for exploiting them. Forced labor is widespread, with children forced to beg or sell goods on the streets, while young boys are armed and pushed into participating in inter-tribal conflict. Human traffickers also use Papua New Guinean children as porters and in illegal gold panning operations. Additionally, human traffickers exploit foreign citizens by using Papua New Guinea as a transit site.

Sex Trafficking and Servitude

In Papua New Guinea, young girls are frequently subjected to forced marriage or sex trafficking by their family members. Often, this happens in a bid to settle disputes between communities, repay debts or make profits. Additionally, some young women in Papua New Guinea are coerced into domestic servitude to support their families. Human traffickers lure girls and women with false promises of legal employment and exploit them in sex trafficking or servitude. Furthermore, traffickers bring foreign women into Papua New Guinea with fraudulent visas and force them into servitude and sex trafficking, particularly in mining and logging operations.
Human traffickers force both local citizens and foreign nationals into forced labor. Traffickers force men to work as miners and loggers. The fishing industry also relies on human trafficking. To gain work on fishing ships, foreign and local men are charged recruitment fees, which can escalate into a debt they are unable to pay off, leading to indefinite work in inhumane conditions. Human trafficking affects all members of the population, regardless of age or nationality, in Papua New Guinea.

Corruption and Human Trafficking

Logging and mining are two of Papua New Guinea’s primary industries. Unfortunately, many of the officials in these industries are corrupt. According to the State Department’s 2022 assessment of the nation, the rampant corruption amongst officials within the logging industry allows for human traffickers to maintain sex trafficking and forced labor at logging locations. This corruption is not limited to those in the foresting industry, as officials throughout the government permit human trafficking in Papua New Guinea. The government allows companies to push workers into forced labor in the fishing and logging industries. Also, some members of the government take bribes to allow trafficking victims into the country, and others exploit victims in order to gain political support.

Lack of Awareness

Apart from corruption, another hindrance to preventing human trafficking in Papua New Guinea is the lack of awareness and resources. Papua New Guinea’s government has engaged in no awareness campaigns to inform the public of the dangers of human trafficking and how to combat it. It has also not dedicated resources to the fight against human trafficking. There are more than 20 provinces in Papua New Guinea, and each one has only two labor inspectors. This is not enough to implement the required inspections across industries and prevent incidents of forced labor or sex trafficking. No members of the government, including diplomats, received anti-trafficking training. This lack of awareness and resources, alongside government corruption, makes fighting human trafficking in Papua New Guinea a challenging endeavor.

Efforts Against Trafficking

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), a United Nations entity, is working to stop human trafficking in Papua New Guinea. The organization has worked with local law enforcement, government agencies, NGOs and private sector partners in the country. Together, these agencies have followed the “4Ps” framework: Partnership, Prevention, Prosecution and Protection. The IOM provides direct assistance to both international and domestic victims of sex trafficking or forced labor.

Looking Ahead

>While human trafficking is an issue in Papua New Guinea, primarily due to a lack of resources and awareness, there have been ongoing efforts to combat it. With the work of organizations such as IOM, trafficking survivors are able to reunite with their families. As organizations such as IOM continue the fight, hopefully, the tide will continue to shift against human trafficking in Papua New Guinea.
– Madison Tomaso
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