Kiribati (Tier 2 Watch List)

Kiribati is a source country for girls subjected to sex trafficking. Crew members on Korean and perhaps other foreign fishing vessels in Kiribati or in its territorial waters exploit prostituted children on board their vessels. Some girls also are prostituted in bars frequented by crew members. Local I-Kiribati, sometimes family members, but also taxi drivers and owners of small boats, knowingly facilitate trafficking by transporting underage girls to the boats for the purposes of prostitution. The girls generally received cash, food, or goods in exchange for sexual services.

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. While the government worked with UNICEF to begin a radio show on the commercial sexual exploitation of children to raise public awareness of sex trafficking, it made few other efforts. The government did not define labor or sex trafficking offenses in Kiribati law, make any efforts to proactively identify victims of trafficking or establish formal procedures for the identification of trafficking victims and the referring of these victims to protective services, investigate or prosecute any suspected trafficking offenders, or work with NGOs or international organizations to provide protective services to victims. Additionally, authorities did not investigate or prosecute foreign crewmen for the commercial sexual exploitation of children within its territory, or identify or assist any victims of trafficking during the year; therefore, Kiribati is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a second consecutive year.

Recommendations for Kiribati: Publicly recognize and condemn incidents of trafficking of children for commercial sexual exploitation; develop and implement a definition for labor and sex trafficking offenses, and make efforts to train officials and front-line officers on trafficking; investigate, prosecute, and punish trafficking offenders; investigate and prosecute foreign crewmen for the commercial sexual exploitation of children; proactively identify and assist victims of trafficking; work with NGOs or international organizations to provide protective services to victims; establish formal procedures to identify and refer trafficking victims to protective services; and expand anti-trafficking information and education campaigns.


The Government of Kiribati failed to demonstrate any meaningful law enforcement efforts to combat human trafficking during the reporting period. Kiribati's 2005 criminal code criminalizes all forms of trafficking, and prescribes penalties of up to 15 years' imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent. The law also provides protection for victims of trafficking from prosecution for crimes committed as a direct result of being trafficked. The law's lack of a definition of sex or labor trafficking, however, obstructed law enforcement officers from rescuing victims or arresting trafficking offenders on trafficking charges due to the lack of a clear understanding of the crime. The government did not make any efforts to investigate, prosecute, or convict trafficking offenders during the year. Government officials did not have an understanding of trafficking, and authorities made no effort to provide training to law enforcement and court personnel on identifying trafficking victims and prosecuting trafficking offenders.


The Government of Kiribati made no discernible progress in identifying or protecting trafficking victims during the reporting period. The government did not identify any trafficking victims, and did not report any efforts to proactively identify victims during the year. Law enforcement and social services personnel do not have a formal system of proactively identifying victims of trafficking among high-risk persons with whom they come in contact. The Kiribati government did not provide any victim care facilities for trafficking victims, and does not have any formal arrangements or mechanisms in place to provide trafficking victims with access to legal, medical, or psychological services. An NGO group reported helping child sex trafficking victims to access counseling and health services during the reporting period. The Kiribati government has not developed or implemented a referral process to transfer victims 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 relies on NGOs and international organizations to provide services to victims of crime.


The government made some efforts to prevent trafficking or raise public awareness of the dangers of trafficking. In January, the Ministry of Internal and Social Affairs worked with UNICEF to begin a public outreach through a weekly radio show on the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The government did not provide any specialized training for government or law enforcement officials on how to recognize, investigate, and prosecute instances of trafficking. It took no action to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts during the reporting period.


This 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.