Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 January 2019, 14:27 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Kiribati

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Kiribati, 19 June 2012, available at: [accessed 23 January 2019]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


Kiribati is a source country for girls subjected to sex trafficking within the country. Crew members on foreign fishing vessels in Kiribati or in its territorial waters around Tarawa and Kiritimati Island allegedly exploit prostituted children, some reportedly as young as 14, in local hotels and aboard their vessels. Local I-Kiribati, sometimes family members of potential victims, but also hotel and bar workers or owners of small boats, may facilitate trafficking by transporting underage girls to the boats for the purpose of prostitution or by failing to intervene in the situation. The girls generally received cash, food, alcohol, or goods in exchange for sexual services. Women and girls who frequent bars and foreign fishing vessels are collectively referred to by the term ainen matawa and are stigmatized in I-Kiribati society.

The Government of Kiribati does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the year, government officials acknowledged the existence of child sex trafficking and expressed their commitment to combating the crime. Although the government did not initiate any criminal prosecutions against traffickers, it cited three captains of foreign fishing vessels found harboring unauthorized I-Kirbati persons – some of whom may have been trafficking victims – aboard their boats. The government did not employ policies to proactively identify trafficking victims among the ainen matawa population. The government's anti-trafficking activities were organized around thwarting the activities of ainen matawa and did not adequately prioritize protecting victims or prosecuting and punishing those who exploit or facilitate the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

Recommendations for Kiribati: Investigate, prosecute, and punish foreign crewmen for the commercial sexual exploitation of children; develop procedures for law enforcement officers and social service providers to interview those in vulnerable groups, such as those intercepted aboard international vessels, for evidence of trafficking; establish formal procedures to identify and refer trafficking victims to protective services; train front-line officers in victim identification techniques and procedures for referral to domestic violence and sexual violence officers; proactively identify and assist victims of trafficking, prioritizing establishment of a safe environment for victims and trust between victims and officers; work with local or international organizations, including religious organizations, to provide protective services to victims; ensure victims are not punished for crimes committed as a result of being trafficked; hold parents accountable, as appropriate under I-Kiribati law, for the commercial sexual exploitation of their children; and expand efforts to raise awareness about the dangers of human trafficking, with a specific focus on increasing public recognition that children in the commercial sex industry are victims rather than social deviants.


The Government of Kiribati demonstrated limited law enforcement efforts to combat human trafficking during the reporting period. Kiribati's 2005 Measures to Combat Terrorism and Transnational Organised Crime Act, as amended in 2008, defines and criminalizes trafficking and prescribes penalties of up to 15 years' imprisonment for the trafficking of adults and 20 years' imprisonment for the trafficking of children. These penalties are sufficiently stringent, but not commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The law's provisions focus on the international movement of people for exploitation, a form of trafficking not known to occur in Kiribati. The law's victim protection provisions shield victims from prosecution for immigration crimes committed as a direct result of being trafficked. Although there is no legal precedent, government officials have reported that domestic trafficking could be prosecuted under this law. The government reported identifying three cases in which unauthorized I-Kiribati persons – some of whom may have been trafficking victims – were discovered on foreign fishing vessels, but it did not identify any confirmed cases of trafficking or conduct any prosecutions for trafficking offenses during the year. In September 2011, the government coordinated a day of training for 19 law enforcement officers and judicial officials on the identification and protection of trafficking victims and investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases. Members of the Domestic Violence and Sexual Offenses Unit of the police were responsible for investigations and victim care in suspected trafficking cases. However, government officials did not sufficiently prioritize identification of victims among the vulnerable populations, particularly ainen matawa, with whom they came in contact. No government officials were suspected of, investigated, prosecuted, or convicted for trafficking or trafficking-related criminal activities during the reporting period.


The Government of Kiribati made little discernible progress in identifying or protecting trafficking victims during the reporting period. Police reported identifying, aboard international fishing vessels, several females who may have been trafficking victims, but their ages and status were not confirmed and the government did not provide them with any protective services. Law enforcement and social services personnel did not develop or implement systematic procedures for proactively identifying victims of trafficking among vulnerable persons with whom they came in contact. The government did not provide any victim care facilities for trafficking victims, but it reported victims could be referred to religious organizations to access medical and psychological services on an ad hoc basis. Law enforcement efforts to combat prostitution potentially resulted in some trafficking victims being treated as law violators; individuals detained for related crimes were not screened to determine whether they were trafficking victims, and their ages were not verified. The government has not developed or implemented a referral process to transfer potential victims who are detained, arrested, or placed in protective custody by law enforcement authorities to institutions that provide short or long-term care. It has a limited capacity to protect victims of trafficking or victims of other crimes, and partners with local religious organizations that provide services to victims of crime.


The government increased its efforts to prevent human trafficking during the year. The Ministry of Internal and Social Affairs, in partnership with an international organization, continued to produce a weekly radio show on child protection issues, including the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The same ministry, with support from an international organization, conducted workshops for community leaders and in schools on issues of child protection and the sexual exploitation of children. The police partnered with the Ministry of Fisheries to enhance the monitoring of shores for unauthorized persons attempting to access international fishing vessels and to dissuade women and girls from entering situations in which they could become victims of exploitation. The government continued to patrol its maritime territory with its one patrol boat and, during the year, in an effort to decrease the demand for commercial sex acts, it began to enforce a 2010 amendment to its foreign fishing license regulations holding ship captains accountable for unauthorized persons discovered on their vessels. The government cited three captains of foreign fishing vessels for harboring unauthorized persons aboard their boats, and one captain received a fine in an amount equivalent to approximately $30,000. The government maintained billboards cautioning against engaging in commercial sex acts.

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