“I now had hope of returning home to my family”: IOM Combats Trafficking in Persons in Papua New Guinea
09 August 2021
IOM is assisting many Papua New Guinean victims of human trafficking every year to reunite with their families and rebuild their lives.
Every year, Papua New Guinean women, children, and men become victims of trafficking, taken through force or manipulation into prostitution, forced labour, domestic servitude, or similar practices.
Human trafficking is one of the most lucrative crimes in the world, in part because of a lack of legislation and law enforcement. Victims find themselves, often but not always in a foreign country, without avenues to support.
“I have never faced a situation like this before,” shared one Papua New Guinean woman who is a survivor of trafficking. “I was lost and helpless.”
“I was taken far from my village and province and I didn’t think there was any help available because even my own family were upset with me and didn’t have the means to help me.”
Trafficking has taken many forms in Papua New Guinea, with perpetrators targeting both local and foreign victims. Traffickers also use Papua New Guinea as a transit point to exploit individuals in other countries.
Importantly, while most victims in PNG are women and children, men are increasingly becoming victims of trafficking for forced labour, especially in labour-intensive sectors such as fishing and agriculture. Persons vulnerable to trafficking include internally displaced people, survivors of domestic abuse, persons living in poverty, and persons with a disability.
In coordination with law enforcement agencies within PNG, the International Organisation for Mirgration (IOM) has provided direct assistance to both international and domestic victims of human trafficking which have involved various forms of exploitation such as labour, sexual exploitation, forced marriage, child labour and domestic servitude.
IOM has worked in close partnership with various government agencies, international and non-governmental organizations, the private sector and development partners to support a range of measures to combat-trafficking in PNG under the “4Ps” framework: Partnership, Protection, Prevention, Prosecution.
“When I was introduced to the IOM staff member, I was happy because I now had hope of returning home to my family,” the survivor shared. “I felt I was being given a second chance in life.”
Despite efforts to combat trafficking, ending the practice in Papua New Guinea remains a challenge.
An acute lack of financial and human resources dedicated to anti-trafficking efforts, as well as very low awareness among government officials and the public, continues to hinder progress to ending trafficking. As such, greater awareness of the nature of trafficking and who is targeted is a valuable tool in identifying victims of trafficking and preventing future exploitation.
Similar to survivors of domestic abuse and gender-based violence, there are limited supports available to victims who do find themselves able to report to authorities. In particular, as lack of safe houses or protection services in a common problem faced by many Papua New Guineans escaping violence and exploitation.
In addition to government authorities, NGOs, and legal personnel, the general public has an important role in identifying trafficking victims and helping them access support. Knowing who may be at risk and being alert to trafficking tactics is also critical. When a friend or family or family members is offered a job or study opportunity in another location, ensure you are able to keep in contact and be aware of any signs that something may be wrong.
“I intend to use my experience to create awareness amongst my peers and in my community about the risks of human trafficking,” said the survivor. “It’s a terrible experience and I do not want others to go through the same.”