As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Papua New Guinea, and traffickers exploit victims from Papua New Guinea abroad. Traffickers use Papua New Guinea as a transit point to exploit foreign individuals in other countries. Traffickers exploit foreign and local women and children in sex trafficking, as well as forced labor in domestic service, the tourism sector, manual labor, forced begging, and street vending. According to international NGO research conducted in previous years, approximately 30 percent of Papua New Guinean sex trafficking victims are children under the age of 18, with some as young as 10 years old. Immediate family or tribe members reportedly exploit children in sex trafficking or forced labor. Some parents force children to beg or sell goods on the street, and some sell or force their daughters into marriages or child sex trafficking to settle debts, resolve disputes between communities, or support their families. The closing of traditional travel routes due to pandemic-related border control restrictions and the imposition of new and complex requirements for entry may have increased vulnerability to trafficking among foreign migrant workers. Anecdotal reports show an increase in online child sexual exploitation, some of which may be child sex trafficking, in connection with an increased use of the internet during the pandemic.
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, who use the bride price as debt to compel the woman to remain in abusive or servile marriages. Some parents reportedly transfer their children—some as young as 12—to other families via informal paid adoption arrangements that, absent monitoring or registration practices, increase their risk of trafficking; this is particularly prevalent among girls, whom adoptive families often seek out as potential sources of future bride-price income. 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, traffickers lure children and women with promises of legitimate work or education to travel to different provinces, where they are exploited in sex trafficking or domestic servitude. Men reportedly engage in transactional sex with girls as young as 15 in exchange for money, gifts, or mobile phone credits. Tribal leaders reportedly trade the exploitative labor and service of girls and women for guns, to forge political alliances, and to settle disputes with one other. Traffickers subject Papua New Guinean children to forced criminality in illegal gold panning. Boys as young as 12 reportedly experience conditions indicative of forced labor as porters. Adolescent boys are also increasingly involved in inter-tribal and intercommunal armed conflict, possibly via forcible recruitment by local leadership. Individuals—particularly women and girls—displaced as a result of frequent natural disasters and communal conflict are at higher risk of trafficking due to poor or nonexistent IDP camp security and loss of livelihoods. International observers report increasing intercommunal tensions resulting from displacement have led to more Papua New Guinean women and girls facing “sorcery” accusations from men in an attempt to psychologically coerce them into forced labor or sex trafficking.
Malaysian and Chinese logging companies arrange for some foreign women to enter the country voluntarily with fraudulently issued tourist or business visas; this practice may also be present at other internationally owned logging sites. 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 sex trafficking and domestic servitude. Sex traffickers also reportedly exploit foreign children in Papua New Guinea. Chinese nationals working in Papua New Guinea may have been forced to work by Chinese companies, including state-owned enterprises. Traffickers force Chinese, Malaysian, and local men to work at commercial mines and logging camps. Burmese, Cambodian, Chinese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, and local men and boys seeking work on fishing vessels go into debt to pay recruitment fees, which vessel owners and senior crew manipulate to coerce them to continue working indefinitely through debt bondage in Papua New Guinea’s exclusive economic zone and in other maritime territories, particularly in tuna fishing. These fishermen may face little to no pay, contract switching, wage garnishing or withholding, harsh working and living conditions, restricted communication, and threats of physical violence as coercive tactics to retain their labor. Often with direct government support, companies reportedly compel these workers to carry out illegal logging and fishing activities, 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 favors or votes. Corruption among forestry officials in particular may be permissive of forced labor among loggers and sex trafficking in communities situated near logging sites; some of these officials reportedly accept bribes to issue logging permits in violation of environmental standards and land ownership rights, leading to displacement and concomitant loss of livelihood that make some communities more vulnerable to exploitation.