Bangkok, 2 October 2023 - A new report released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today delves into the current evidence of trafficking, risk areas, and frameworks and responses to human trafficking in the Pacific Island countries.
Covering Micronesia, Fiji, Palau, Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands and Tonga, the report finds that the Pacific Island countries are vulnerable to the exploitation and recruitment of trafficking victims.
Human trafficking victims in the region are typically exploited for both forced labour and sexual exploitation. Much of the sexual exploitation (often of women and girls) occurs in big cities or tourist hotspots. Victims of forced labour, meanwhile - many of whom are from South and South East Asia - are typically found in the fishing, hospitality, domestic, or agricultural industries.
Nor are people from the Pacific Islands themselves immune to the dangers of human trafficking. The islands also serve as countries of recruitment or origin of trafficking victims towards other countries in Oceania and South East Asia, usually for forced labour in the agriculture sector.
In two countries, Fiji and Palau, the report examines the severity of trafficking in persons cases. The data suggest that roughly 0.6 per cent of the population in both states have experienced 'severe' instances of trafficking in persons for forced labour, while many more have experienced less violent forms of trafficking or exploitation.
Assuming the prevalence rates in Fiji and Palau could be roughly applied to all six islands in the story, the estimated number of persons experiencing trafficking could amount to 2,400 over the course of five years.
The report explores the counter-trafficking efforts and capacity in the region. Relatively few cases have been detected and even fewer have resulted in convictions, with just 15 convictions reported between 2017-2020.
Given the high disparity between the suspected number of victims and the low number of convictions, the report underscores the need to support the Pacific Islands in counter-trafficking activities.
More comprehensive data and research on trafficking in persons in the region is needed. Armed with such data and technical support, countries could take concrete steps to put into action their commitments to fight trafficking in persons. These include designating and empowering a body to lead the country's response to trafficking in persons; collecting data, protocols, and databases on trafficking indicators; and establishing a regular reporting mechanism to share national trafficking statistics and analysis.
As has been previously noted by Ghada Waly, Executive Director of UNODC, "Countries need to develop stronger national frameworks for the identification and protection of victims of trafficking, especially during states of emergency when detection is more difficult, and especially in low and middle-income countries where resources may be lacking.
This includes stronger vigilance against exploitation in out of sight locations as well as online, working closely with the private sector.
And a more proactive approach is sorely needed in identifying and helping victims and investigating cases."
Read the full report here.