July 01, 2013

By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press

June 20, 2013 Pohnpei, FSM -For the fifth year, the Federated States of Micronesia's antihuman trafficking efforts placed the nation on the Tier 2 Watch List or lower on the United States Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report. The U.S. Department of State released the report on Wednesday, June 19, Washington D.C. time.

In 2011 the FSM scored at Tier 3, the lowest scored on the report. This year the FSM was back on the Tier 2 Watch List. "The Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report is the U.S. Government's principal diplomatic tool to engage foreign governments on human trafficking," the State Department website says ( "The U.S. Government uses the TIP Report to engage foreign governments in dialogues to advance anti-trafficking reforms and to combat trafficking and to target resources on prevention, protection and prosecution programs."

What is human trafficking?

"Human trafficking can include but does not require movement," the TIP report says. "People may be considered trafficking victims regardless of whether they were born into a state of servitude, were transported to the exploitative situation, previously consented to work for a trafficker, or participated in a crime as a direct result of being trafficked. At the heart of this phenomenon is the traffickers' goal of exploiting and enslaving their victims and the myriad coercive and deceptive practices they use to do so."

Human trafficking includes sex trafficking, child sex trafficking, forced labor, bonded labor or debt bondage, involuntary domestic servitude, forced child labor, and unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers.

What do the "Tier" levels mean?

Countries that attain Tier 1 status fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000. "While Tier 1 is the highest ranking, it does not mean that a country has no human trafficking problem," introductory materials to the report say. "On the contrary, a Tier 1 ranking indicates that a government has acknowledged the existence of human trafficking, made efforts to address the problem, and complies with the TVPA's minimum standards."

Countries placed at Tier 2 are not fully complying with TVPA minimum standards but are making significant efforts to do so. Countries placed at Tier 2 Watch List are essentially the same as Tier 2 except that one or more of the following applies:

Countries placed at Tier 3 do not comply with TVPA minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so. None of the three Freely Associated States made Tier 1, indicating that more enforcement effort is needed in the FSM, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau. The report placed RMI on the same Tier 2 watch list as the FSM, and Palau was one step higher at Tier 2.

Isn't it good enough that there are now laws against it in the FSM?

The FSM National Government and three of its States have passed stringent regulations on human trafficking violations. The National regulations prohibit all forms of trafficking and provide penalties of 15 to 30 years imprisonment, and fines not exceeding $50,000.

Pohnpei and Chuuk regulations prohibit sexual servitude of children and involuntary servitude of adults, but not sexual servitude of adults. Those regulations provide penalties of up to 10 years' imprisonment or fines not exceeding $10,000, or both.

Kosrae's law prohibits all forms of trafficking and protects male, female, and children victims. Trafficking is considered a category one felony and prescribes penalties of up to 10 years in prison, fines not exceeding $10,000 or both.

According to the report, Yap had not yet passed a human trafficking law by the end of 2012 but the bill was before the Legislature at that time.

The debate on abolishing human trafficking in the FSM

During the debate on the FSM national law on trafficking on the floor of the FSM Congress, some lawmakers voiced their concern that the law might be a violation of traditional customs. "Specifically, they expressed concern that a child might be able to make spurious charges against a parent or legal guardian," The Justice and Governmental Operations committee report of the FSM Congress (17-90) said. Legal staff suggested a minor amendment to address that issue.

The FSM Secretary of Department of Justice at the time told the J&GO Committee that the bill was an important first step in meeting the nation's commitments under the Palermo protocol. He emphasized his belief that the bill was not motivated by a wish merely to comply with US standards, but believed that it nevertheless would be received favorably by the US and the international community. Representatives from DOJ offered their opinion that the national government would have jurisdiction over crimes involving interstate commerce or the movement of persons across interstate borders, but that states would probably have jurisdiction otherwise.

Congress passed the bill after considerable debate on the floor, and President Mori signed it into law on March 16, 2012.

FSM law based on Palau's nine year old law

The bill used Palau's relatively concise legislative framework as a model, rather than the United Nations model, which ran to over one hundred pages," the J&GO report said.

Palau has had a trafficking law with harsh penalties since 2004, but by the end of 2012 it had never prosecuted any traffickers using that law. The TIP report said that instead, traffickers had been prosecuted under a less stringent law regarding labor standards. In at least one case, the accused served a total of 90 days for bringing workers into Palau and then forcing them into prostitution or otherwise enslaving people.

The report said that Palau law enforcement officials indicated at the end of 2012 that they were then in the investigation process for potential prosecutions of individuals for alleged trafficking violations but were not yet ready to make arrests. Recently Palau law enforcement officials made high profile arrests and Palau is currently prosecuting those cases as violations of their own trafficking law instead of as violations of labor standards as they have done before.

What needs to be done in the FSM?

FSM has made little to no provision to protect victims of human trafficking. "FSM officials did not provided legal alternatives to the removal of foreign trafficking victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution," the report said/

According to the report, the FSM has made some good strides and is making an effort to educate its people on the issue of Human Trafficking. The report praises the efforts of the Department of Justice which designed training plans for State and local law enforcement officials. It also lauds the International Organization of Migration for establishing a Migrant Resource Center in Pohnpei which created educational modules on human trafficking for those who intend to migrate to the United States.

What the FSM has not done yet is to actually go after potential human traffickers even though there have been reports for several years that it is happening right here. Until they do, FSM will remain mired on the Tier 2 watch list, and traffickers will continue to prey on powerless people.