PNG downgraded for lack of efforts towards trafficking

The Government of Papua New Guinea does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so; therefore PNG was downgraded to Tier 3.

The annual Trafficking in Persons Report divides nations into tiers based on their compliance with standards outlined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000.

These tiers are:

  • Tier 1 Countries whose governments fully comply with the TVPA's minimum standards.
  • Tier 2 Countries whose governments do not fully comply with TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.
  • Tier 2 Watchlist Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards AND: a) The absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is significantly increasing; or b) There is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year; or c) The determination that a country is making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with minimum standards was based on commitments by the country to take additional future steps over the next year.
  • Tier 3 Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.

In a Trafficking in Persons Report 2018 from the US Department of State, it was said that despite the lack of significant efforts, the government took some steps to address trafficking, including initiating the first investigation of a government official under the country’s anti-trafficking law.

“However, an acute lack of financial and human resources dedicated to trafficking, as well as very low awareness among government officials and the public, hindered progress.

“The government did not provide or fund protective services for victims, did not systematically implement its victim identification procedures, and did not identify any trafficking victims in 2017.

“It also did not initiate any prosecutions and did not achieve a single trafficking conviction for the fifth consecutive year.”



Disseminate, implement and widely train police, immigration, and customs enforcement officers on the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for victim identification, referral, and protection

Investigate and prosecute trafficking offences and convict and apply strong sentences to traffickers, including family members and officials who facilitate or directly benefit from trafficking.

In collaboration with civil society, screen for indicators of trafficking among fishermen apprehended for illegal fishing or immigration crimes.

Work with NGOs and international organisations to increase protective services for victims of trafficking.

To protect victims from arrest, deportation, or other punishment for acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking, clarify who has the authority to designate an individual as a trafficking victim and simplify the process for doing so.

Allocate resources, including dedicated staff, to government agencies to implement the national action plan and SOPs.

Increase collaboration with civil society, private sector, religious, and community leaders to raise awareness of and reduce demand for forced labor and commercial sex acts, especially of children.

Strengthen the national trafficking committee by designating senior officials to represent their agencies, and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.



The government decreased law enforcement efforts in 2017. The Criminal Code Amendment of 2013 criminalized sex and labour trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to 20 years imprisonment.

These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.

The police initiated investigations into one individual suspected of trafficking in 2017, compared with three in 2016. The police investigated a police commander for allegedly subjecting eight women to sex and labour trafficking; this was the first trafficking case involving a complicit official under the anti-trafficking law.

Authorities did not initiate prosecutions of any suspects in 344 PARAGUAY2017, compared with three in 2016. One prosecution initiated in 2016 was still ongoing and awaiting trial. Similar to past years, the government did not achieve any trafficking convictions.

An international organisation partnered with the government to conduct trainings for government officials. The government provided the venue and logistical support and co-facilitated some training sessions.

The national action plan outlined future government-led trainings with the goal of implementing government agencies institutionalising and delivering the training package.

Provincial officials’ limited understanding of trafficking hindered effective law enforcement activity. Enforcement agencies and most government offices remained weak as a result of underfunding, corruption, cronyism, a lack of accountability, and a promotion system based on patronage.


The government decreased efforts to protect victims. Authorities and civil society organisations did not identify any new victims, compared with six victims identified in 2016 and 31 in 2015.

Although officials seized three foreign vessels for illegal fishing and trafficking in 2016, they did not apprehend any vessels in 2017. Logging and mining sites primarily operated in remote regions with negligible government oversight, and authorities did not make efforts to identify sex or labour trafficking victims at these sites.

The government maintained their SOPs for victim identification; however, authorities lacked a written guide as recommended in the national action plan.

The government provided law enforcement agencies rapid screening forms and related victim identification training; however, police continued to rely upon foreign expert assistance to identify victims.

Civil society organisations provided medical and short-term shelter services to victims without financial or in-kind support from the government. Male victims could receive ad hoc services and female victims could receive services through NGO-run gender-based violence programs; there were no services specifically tailored to the needs of trafficking victims.

The victim identification procedures included guidance for protecting foreign victims from punishment for immigration crimes committed as a result of trafficking. However, authorities punished some victims for such crimes due to challenges in interagency coordination and a lack of clarity over who had the authority to verify an individual as a victim of trafficking.

Authorities arrested and prosecuted children who were forced to pan for gold in areas where this activity was illegal; the national trafficking committee was working to have these children recognized as trafficking victims at the close of the reporting period.

The law provided legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution, but the government did not report offering this protection to any victim in 2017. The government allowed “ongoing stay” for trafficking victims but lacked provisions for victims to seek compensation through civil suits.


The government maintained minimal efforts to prevent trafficking. The national trafficking committee met quarterly in 2017. Committee members participated in monitoring visits to gather information from a variety of stakeholders on their awareness of trafficking.

The government did not demonstrate measurable progress in the implementation of its national plan of action, or the government-led training or referral processes. The government did not conduct any awareness-raising campaigns or community outreach to educate the public about trafficking indicators.

The government did not make efforts to decrease the demand for forced labour or commercial sex acts. The government did not have effective policies to regulate foreign labor recruiters or hold recruiters liable for fraudulent recruiting. Papua New Guinea is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel.


As reported over the past five years, Papua New Guinea is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour.

Foreign and local women and children are subjected to sex trafficking, domestic servitude, forced labour in the tourism sector, and forced begging and street vending.

An international NGO conducted research with sex trafficking victims and concluded approximately 30 percent were children under the age of 18 and some were as young as 10 years old.

Children are reportedly subjected to sex trafficking or forced labour by members of their immediate family or tribe. Parents force children to beg or sell goods on the street and sell or force their daughters into marriages or child sex trafficking to settle debts or to support their families.

Marriages in Papua New Guinea commonly involve a “bride price” of money or chattel paid to the wife’s family by the husband’s family; this is sometimes used as a debt to compel women to remain in abusive or servile marriages.

Young girls sold into polygamous marriages may be forced into domestic service for their husbands’ extended families or exploited in sex trafficking.

Within the country, children and women may be exploited with promises of legitimate work or education to travel to different provinces where they are subjected to sex trafficking or domestic servitude. Tribal leaders reportedly trade with each other the exploitative labour and service of girls and women for guns and to forge political alliances.

Malaysian and Chinese logging companies arrange for some foreign women to enter the country voluntarily with fraudulently issued tourist or business visas. After their arrival, many of these women – from countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, China, and the Philippines – are turned over to traffickers who transport them to logging and mining camps, fisheries, and entertainment sites, and exploit them in forced prostitution and domestic servitude.

Chinese, Malaysian and local men are subjected to forced labour at commercial mines and logging camps, as well as on fishing vessels operating in Papua New Guinea’s exclusive economic zone, where some receive little pay and are compelled to continue working for the company indefinitely through debt bondage.

Vietnamese, Burmese, Cambodian and local men and boys are subjected to forced labour on fishing vessels; they face little to no pay, harsh working conditions and debt bondage, and many are compelled to fish illegally, making them vulnerable to arrest.

Government officials reportedly facilitate trafficking by accepting bribes to allow undocumented migrants to enter the country or ignore trafficking situations, and some may exploit sex trafficking victims or procure victims for other individuals in return for political favours or votes.

(Rescued Burmese and Cambodian fishermen at Daru Port in Western Province – Picture: International Organization for Migration)

Press release