The Pacific is a transit point and destination for trafficking of men, women and children, according to experts.
The women and children are being trafficked for sexual servitude while the men for modern day labour. In this day and age, the facts revealed by a United States report are a flashback to the days when men and women in chains aboard sailing ships were taken away from their homelands.
While it doesn’t happen this way anymore, trafficking in persons is still a serious issue for the region.
According to the US State Department Trafficking in Person Report 2022, trafficking in persons, human trafficking and modern slavery are umbrella terms – often used interchangeably – to refer to a crime whereby traffickers exploit and profit at the expense of adults or children by compelling them to perform labor or engage in commercial sex.
There has been mysterious disappearances of women and children all over the Pacific and often there are fingers pointed at possible trafficking in persons but so far the failure to work as a collective has not augured well for Pacific nations.
The US Government, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), launched a five-year partnership with The Asia Foundation (TAF) worth US$10 million to implement counter-trafficking in persons interventions in Fiji, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, and Tonga.
USAID’s Pacific Regional Initiative and Support for More Effective Counter Trafficking in Persons (Pacific RISE CTIP) project uses a holistic, multisectoral approach that engages government, civil society, and the private sector in the protection of potential victims and the prosecution of people involved in trafficking.
Tony Greubel, Charge d’Affaires at U.S. Embassy, Suva said the project represented the US Government’s commitment to partner with Pacific Island countries to combat trafficking in persons.
According to the TIP Report, Fiji maintains a Tier 2 ranking while Palau and Tonga remain in the Tier 2 Watch List in 2022, relative to 2021. According to TVPA, the governments of these countries do not fully meet the minimum standards in the elimination of TIP but are making significant efforts to comply with TVPA standards.
Through this project, USAID’s goal is to reduce trafficking incidence and vulnerability by enhancing mechanisms and strategies to prevent trafficking, improve protection services for victims, and increase access to legal services and remedies.
Fiji’s Ministry of Defence Advisor to National Security, Joji Washington said to address and effectively counter the global issue of trafficking in persons, one that has real implications for the Pacific and countries like Fiji, there was a need to work together.
“Starting at the individual country level. This is why Fiji welcomes the Pacific Regional Initiative and Support for More Effective Counter Trafficking in Persons as a program that will support the countering of trafficking in persons in Fiji by strengthening prevention, protection and prosecution mechanisms,” he said..
“What is especially important is ‘how’ this will be achieved – through close collaboration and partnership with Fiji’s CTIP national task force and the Fiji Interagency Working Group on Human Trafficking in implementing our National Human Trafficking Strategy 2021-2026 and National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking 2021-2026.
“Moreover, curbing trafficking in persons will assist Fiji in our fight against money laundering, securing our borders, and capturing the proceeds of crime.”