By Robin Gomes
Caritas PNG and the "Justice and Peace" Commission of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands expressed their concern in a note to the Vatican’s Fides news agency.
The local Church said it wants to collaborate with the police forces involved in fighting these crimes. For an adequate response, it said, it is necessary to examine the phenomena through a multidisciplinary approach, in order to understand the problems and their causes, and identify the processes and the people involved.
According to Caritas, human trafficking in Papua New Guinea is a very complex problem given its variety of forms, the situation of the victims and the nature of criminals who perpetrate the abuses.
A recent report, published by the local newspaper, "Post Courier", showed that several foreign multinationals carry out activities not foreseen in their licenses and even contrary to the laws of PNG.
A note from Caritas PNG, sent to Fides, suggested two practical solutions. Firstly, it calls for prompt judicial proceedings against traffickers and those who benefit from them at different levels. Caritas also calls for greater cooperation and awareness on human trafficking and the defence of victims, both at the national and international levels through cooperation among government networks, businesses, religious communities and civil society.
In a related development, Human Rights Watch (HRW) had earlier reported there was no improvement in PNG in 2019, regarding violence, domestic abuse, corruption and foreign debt. Its annual report noted that weak enforcement of the law and a lack of accountability fostered a culture of impunity and lawlessness.
HRW’s deputy director for Asia, Phil Robertson, said despite a change of prime minister, progress was still slow and the key findings were dire.
“We are talking about a very desperately poor country. One where there is a lot of violence that's committed with impunity ... where women are particularly affected, as well as children.”
“Forty per cent of the population still lives in poverty,” he said, noting PNG is very rich in resources. “Twenty-five per cent of the children are not in school, and our estimate is that one in 13 have died of preventable disease.”