April 18, 2011

By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press

April 13, 2011 Pohnpei, FSM-Some Pacific Island nations including the Federated States of Micronesia have been included on a watch list compiled by the United States in its annual human trafficking report conducted by the Department of State (DOS). It is the second time in a row for the FSM to be placed on the watch list.

The 2010 DOS Trafficking in Persons report measures worldwide law enforcement and other efforts against the crime of human trafficking on a country by country basis during the 2009 calendar year. While the report was unveiled on June 8, 2010 in an apparently overcrowded Washington D.C. ceremony where Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was the principal speaker, the website for the report only began to generate Internet alerts within the last week. The full report can be found on the Internet at www.state. gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2010/.

The report evaluated 176 countries and also Netherlands Antilles as if it were a country rather than a semi-autonomous entity within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The countries were evaluated on a four tiered system.

The US State Department put the FSM on the tier two Watch List which includes those countries "whose governments do not fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards, AND: a) the absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is significantly increasing; b) there is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year; or, c) the determination that a country is making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with minimum standards was based on commitments by the country to take additional future steps over the next year."

The TVPA defines "severe forms of trafficking" as:

a. Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age; or

b. the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

A victim need not be physically transported from one location to another in order for the crime to fall within these definitions.

DOS assigned 58 of the countries of the 177 it evaluated (33 percent) to the second tier watch list. On that list the FSM is in the company of such countries as Afghanistan, the People's Republic of China, Fiji, Iraq, Kiribati, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and many others.

For unexplained reasons the Republic of the Marshall Islands was not one of the countries DOS evaluated.

The U.S. State Department report says that the FSM is a source country for women subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced prostitution in the United States and the U.S. territory of Guam, and has reportedly been a destination for women from China forced into commercial sexual exploitation. The FSM may be a destination country for a few men and women from other Pacific nations who are subjected to conditions of forced labor.

"Evidence and anecdotal reports suggest that the current number of internal or transnational trafficking victims is low; the government's limited resources were thus often directed to meet more emergent priorities."

The report mentions the recently concluded trial in Guam of Song Wa Cha who was convicted of human trafficking offenses involving 10 young women who were recruited from Chuuk by a Micronesian recruiter. The court found that the girls had been lured to Guam under false pretenses and promises of legitimate work and then were forced into prostitution instead. The Micronesian recruiter was never charged with any crime by FSM law enforcement officers though the FSM's Attorney General Maketo Robert said that the former National Police Chief Pius Roby told him after charges were filed in Guam that he was in the process of conducting an investigation into the matter. No charges were ever filed and no arrests were made.

The Kaselehlie Press published a news article in April of 2008 saying that then FSM Assistant Attorney General Kembo Mida was conducting an investigation to see if charges needed to be filed against the then unknown Micronesian recruiter by the FSM Department of Justice. The Department of Justice made a public plea for information on the matter in the newspaper and in the popular MicSem forum, an online chat resource frequented by Micronesians. The investigation apparently collapsed after Mr. Mida resigned from the office. No charges were ever filed in the FSM.

The report also said that a physically and mentally disabled young woman from Chuuk was rescued from forced prostitution in Hawaii during 2009.

"In May 2009, the former FSM Ambassador to the United States was convicted of selling sample FSM passports maintained at the Embassy in Washington D.C. for personal financial gain, and sentenced to 30 months' imprisonment and a fine. Although authorities have not yet shown that the case clearly involved the transnational movement of trafficking victims, the former Ambassador was facilitating the illegal cross-border movement of irregular migrants from populations throughout the region that are consistently identified as trafficking victims. FSM supports no anti-trafficking task forces or working groups. The government conducted no campaigns aimed at reducing the demand for commercial sex acts. Micronesia is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP (Trafficking in Persons) Protocol."

It said that very little data on human trafficking in FSM is available as the government made no effort to proactively identify victims despite its history as a source country for victims. The government had not concluded any inquiries, investigations, studies or surveys on human trafficking.

While the FSM does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking it is making significant efforts to do so. The FSM did provide some police and immigration officials with trafficking awareness training. Upper level managers at the Division of Labor and Immigration attended seminars that discussed trafficking and the Division claims to look for evidence of trafficking at ports of entry into the FSM.

The Police Academy conducted in Pohnpei involving officers from all the State and National governments provided training on recognizing trafficking victims, as well as the difference between human trafficking and alien smuggling. It also discussed trafficking interdiction techniques. However, the report said, no formal plan to act on the training is currently in place.

FSM National Police would have jurisdiction over transnational trafficking crimes. Currently there are no specific or comprehensive national laws that prohibit forms of human trafficking such as slavery, forced labor, or forced prostitution. There are related laws that would allow the States to prosecute trafficking offenses and the penalties for trafficking offenses under those laws "are sufficiently stringent," with provisions for five to 10 years' imprisonment for violations.

FSM law enforcement agencies operated under significant resource, personnel, and capacity constraints, the report said.

US DOS recommended that the FSM should educate officials and the general public on the nature of trafficking crimes and the ways in which these crimes affect the FSM; develop and implement a comprehensive anti-trafficking law that would be applicable in all four States; create or support prevention campaigns and investigate recruiters who may be engaged in fraudulent recruiting that leads to trafficking; and develop an internal structure which ensures victims' access to protective services.

Indonesia, Palau and Timor-Leste were three of the 74 countries (42% of the 177 countries evaluated) assigned a tier two rank. Countries on the tier two list are "countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA's minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards."

13 countries of the 177 evaluated (7%) were assigned to the Tier three list. Countries evaluated as belonging to tier three are "countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so." Papua New Guinea was one of the countries with a tier three ranking. Only 30 of the 177 countries evaluated (17 percent) including Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States were evaluated as belonging to the first tier. A first tier ranking means that those countries fully comply with the TVPA minimum standards.

This was the first year that the United States also evaluated its own efforts. While the country is meeting minimum standards of effort in terms of human trafficking issues which placed the country on the tier one list, the DOS report had a substantial number of recommendations for improvements.

The State Department estimates that globally, 12.3 million adults and children are in situations of forced labor, bonded labor, and forced prostitution around the world. It says that in 2009 there were 4,199 successful trafficking prosecutions around the world. 335 of those were related to forced labor. 62 countries have yet to convict a trafficker under laws in compliance with the Palermo Protocol and 104 countries have no laws, policies, or regulations to prevent victims' deportation.

It says that globally 1.8 people out of every 1000 are victims of human trafficking. In the Asia and Pacific region that ratio increases to 3 out of every 1000 inhabitants.