Friday, June 19, 2009

Two Pacific nations criticised in human trafficking report

By Josephine Latu: Pacific Media Centre

Two Pacific Island nations – Fiji and Papua New Guinea – have been ranked among the least active countries in combating human trafficking abuses such as forced labour, bonded labour, sexual exploitation and child labour.

Both countries were cited in the “least active” tier 3 group of countries in the ninth annual Trafficking in Persons Report released by the US State Department this week, focussing on international governments’ efforts to eliminate human trafficking.

The report ranked 173 countries.

The 17 tier 3 nations – also including Cuba, Iran and North Korea - purportedly do not comply fully with the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) and “are not making any significant efforts to do so”.

Only two other Pacific Island Forum countries were cited – Palau and Micronesia (both on the tier 2 “watch list”).

From the region, Timor-Leste was also ranked tier 2, while Australia and New Zealand were both grouped in tier 1, indicating full compliance with TVPA.

In the report, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on all governments to “build consensus and leverage resources” to eliminate human trafficking.

Findings were based on information gathered from US embassies overseas, government officials, NGOs and international organisations, published reports, and other research.

Forced labour
The TIP review described Fiji and PNG as both “source” and “destination” countries for commercial sexual exploitation, forced labour, as well as the trafficking of children.

Individual country reviews said: “Fiji is a source country for children trafficked for the purposes of labour and commercial sexual exploitation, and a destination country for women from China, Thailand, and India trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation.”

It also said family members, other Fijian citizens as well as foreign tourists continue to exploit boys and girls for commercial sex.

In Papua New Guinea, women and children are reportedly trafficked for sexual exploitation and domestic servitude, while men were trafficked to logging and mining camps and forced to work. These include victims trafficked from Malaysia, Thailand, China as well as the Philippines.

The report also claimed that “unique and enduring cultural practices” in PNG reinforce the perception of females and children as commodities, such as trading females for guns or to settle debt.

The island governments were recommended to make stronger efforts to prosecute human trafficking offenders, protect the victims, and prevent further abuse.

At the same time, the report said the rankings were “based more on the extent of government action to combat trafficking than on the size of the problem”.

Trafficking in Persons 2009 Report - full text

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