Sr Doreen’s story: The untold stories of human trafficking

Posted on 9 August 2011


Tuesday, 09 August 2011 08:29

Sister Doreen:

THE facts, secrets and the untold stories of human trafficking in the Solomon Islands have been revealed in a workshop in Honiara yesterday.

A workshop organised by the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) attended by lawyers, police, Ports Authority officials and Government officials were kept silent when Sister Doreen from the Christian Care Centre presented her exclusive experience with human trafficking in the country.

“Human trafficking is real and it happens in the Solomon Islands,” she said.

Sister Doreen said the issue of human trafficking has been overlooked as a problem only experienced in other countries but Solomon Islanders must realise that it is happening in the country.

Human trafficking is the illegal trade of human beings for the purposes of reproductive slavery, commercial sexual exploitation, forced labour, or a modern-day form of slavery.

Although this has been denied to be occurring in the country, Sister Doreen has come out publicly to share her experience regarding the problem.

Sister Doreen who hails from the Makira/Ulawa Province revealed her experiences with the situation on our logging camps around the country particularly the camp in Arosi, Makira/Ulawa Province.

She said she had interviewed, witnessed and encountered human trafficking on the camp not only young girls but young boys as well.

She said they vary from ages 6-13 years old.

She revealed a story of nine boys aged between 9-13 who were taken onboard by foreigners at the logging camp as sex slaves who used to travel from province to province on boats.

She also told of a story of a young female who was a victim of sexual abuse that have been treated as a sex slave for years which resulted in her became mentally ill.

“The woman came to the care centre and revealed all the stories of how she was ill-treated on one of the foreign boats. Sometimes, because of what she went through she will just burst out crying, telling us that she wanted to go back to the shore.”

“She has been traumatised because she was kept like a slave,” Sister Doreen said.

Sister Doreen also revealed a story of four girls aged 13 years who shared their experience with her about their experience with the foreigners and how they were treated.

“I actually encountered a foreigner who tried to transport some primary school students whom stated he loved kids and wanted to take them for lunch in the middle of the bush,” she revealed.

Doreen also tried to sue a couple who willingly attempted to send their 9 year old daughter away with a foreigner for holidays overseas in exchange for money.

She managed to talk the parents out of sending their daughter away after warning them that they would be sued.

Sister Doreen told participants at the workshop that these problems were evident all around the country and not only in some provinces.

“The Government must stop turning a blind eye on the issue and accept the fact that this problem is here,” she said.

Meanwhile, a representative from the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) Florence Taro told participants that although they were aware of such cases, they face a major difficulty in gathering evidence to prove these cases.

“Victims fear that they may be prosecuted if they tell the story so therefore police can’t really compile a solid evidence to prove such cases although it is really happening,” Mrs Taro said.

She said they had one case in the past but the court threw it out because there was lack of evidence.

The workshop was also told that cultural barriers are also hindering efforts to try and tackle the issue in which victims especially young girls are not allowed to publicly speak about their experiences.

“Victims or even women get bashed up for revealing such stories,” she said.

“This leads to another issue and that is the safety and risks of victims trying to reveal their stories.”

Ports Authority chief executive officer William Barile said Ports has been cracking down on boats that used to transport these victims at the main wharf but since then they have moved to other spots around the town as access spots.

“It’s a problem of livelihood that needs urgent Government attention,” Mr Barile said.

He said all stakeholders including the Government need to work together to address and plan on how best to tackle what he described as a ‘social illness’.

The workshop which was held at the Heritage Park Hotel aims to increase awareness among stakeholders from the government, civil society and the legal community about trafficking in persons (TIP).