Australian Institute of Criminology

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Pacific trafficking in persons forum

Quality Hotel, Wellington NZ
2-4 September 2009

About the conference

The Pacific trafficking in persons forum was held in the Cuba Room at the Quality Hotel, Wellington New Zealand on 2-4 September 2009.

The Australian Institute of Criminology together with The Salvation Army, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga, and the Pacific Immigration Directors' Conference, brought together government agencies, nongovernment organisations and academics to identify existing research and its findings to date, to discuss challenges and identify research priorities for investigating and understanding the various forms of trafficking in persons.

More than 70 delegates attended the forum from nine countries in and around the Pacific Islands to hear more than 30 presentations on trafficking in persons and related issues. The forum themes included human rights; background and causal factors; responses to trafficking and capacity to respond; labour trafficking; child trafficking; sex trafficking; and nongovernment organisations' responses to trafficking. Based on the forum themes, identification of key areas drawn from the presentations are summarised below.

Theme 1: Human rights
It was clearly identified by the three presenters in the session on human rights that the observance and protection of trafficking victims' human rights must be at the core of all anti-trafficking activities. The root causes of trafficking in persons are often due to violations of human rights, such that human rights violations are a cause and a consequence of trafficking in persons.

Early and recent key international anti-trafficking instruments centre their activities on maintaining human rights, highlighting their importance and encouraging Pacific Island Nations contemplating adopting anti-trafficking measures to acknowledge a similar human rights approach.

Theme 2: Background and causal factors
The presenters in the split session on background and causal factors had three extremely varied experiences, which provided a valuable awareness raising opportunity for the forum delegates. It is clear that trafficking in persons is highly clandestine and can present in various forms, making the interception of victims and prosecution of offenders challenging.

Key risk factors identified in this session related to cultural, geographical, political, economic and security related issues. Understanding the complexities of the Pacific region is important when attempting to counter trafficking in persons. Issues such as limited resources and capacity to respond to trafficking, lack of legal framework, lack of training of law enforcement and the judiciary, limited victim support provisions and minimal collaboration within and between government and nongovernment sectors must all be considered in anti-trafficking responses.

Theme 3: Reponses to trafficking and capacity to respond
The split session on responses to trafficking and capacity to respond highlighted the varying progress in adopting anti-trafficking measures by Pacific Island countries. The five presenters in this session had varying experiences, including at the frontline, policy development, regional administration, data collection and monitoring and legislation development.

Key issues identified from the presentations included the importance of national and regional collaboration in research, awareness raising, data collection, and information and intelligence sharing. The ongoing challenges due to limited resources were also highlighted as a significant issue, identifying that collaboration may be assisted by pooling resources to achieve positive outcomes.

Theme 4: Labour trafficking
Being an emerging issue, the split labour trafficking session was highly informative both in terms of its status as an emerging issue and its significant links to limited employment opportunity across the Pacific region. The five presenters provided an overview of the labour vulnerabilities, both emerging and ever-present within the Pacific as well as methods to counter the potential for exploitation.

The issue of international migration for employment was a common theme throughout the session, specifically within the seasonal work industries, nursing and rural to urban drift. The concept of Fair Trade Labelling and the potentially positive impact on farmers in the Pacific was addressed along with good practice identified in the recently released New Zealand Plan of Action against trafficking in persons.

Theme 5: Child trafficking
The child trafficking session provided the three presenters the opportunity to share their experiences and counter-child trafficking methods to forum delegates. Presentations provided a wide variety of international experience, highlighting the potential for child exploitation in the Pacific, and a window into what child trafficking in the Pacific might look like.

Identified by the three presenters was the need to ensure protective measures are in place for children from birth, such as the rights to birth registration and education as affirmed by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Presenters provided an overview of measures being taken to prevent children being forced into situations of exploitation that may lead to trafficking in persons.

Theme 6: Sex trafficking
The session on sex trafficking aimed to provide delegates with a greater understanding of sex trafficking, a commonly misunderstood topic. The four presenters highlighted issues including demand-driven sex trafficking, gender equality and the ramifications of a patriarchal society, transparency in the sex industry and how to remove 'actual' victims from a situation of trafficking.

Despite varying experiences, the four presenters highlighted that people working with victims of sex trafficking need to understand the victim, their background and their choices in order to provide a supportive service.

Theme 7: Nongovernment organisations' responses to trafficking
This session provided nongovernment organisations working on anti-trafficking activities to provide an overview of lessons learnt and good practice activities that may assist other nongovernment organisations working on anti-trafficking in the Pacific.

The key message drawn from the three presentations was the need for community consultation and collaboration, both within the nongovernment but also the government sectors, to ensure all needs of the community are met.

Identified Research Priorities

  • Sex industry legalisation and the potential for trafficking in persons and exploitation
  • Understanding culture within the Pacific including the gender imbalance due to a patriarchal society
  • Collaboration within and between government and nongovernment sectors to ensure resources are well targeted
  • What are the vulnerabilities that may lead to trafficking in persons in the Pacific Island Countries?
  • Who are the traffickers?
  • Commercial sexual exploitation of children and the potential link into child trafficking and child sex tourism
  • Role of parenting norms in the Pacific Islands
  • The impact of labelling countries as source, transit and destination counties within the Pacific
  • Where are the hotspots in the Pacific region?

Presentation slides