The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) is a destination country for women from East Asia subjected to sex trafficking. Foreign women are reportedly forced into prostitution in bars frequented by crew members of Chinese and other foreign fishing vessels; some Chinese women are recruited with the promise of legitimate work, and after paying large recruitment fees, are forced into prostitution in the Marshall Islands. Little data on human trafficking in the Marshall Islands is available; the government has not made efforts to identify victims proactively, especially among vulnerable populations, such as foreign and local women in prostitution and foreign men on fishing vessels in Marshallese waters.
The RMI government does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite this limited performance, the government did not provide evidence of implementing the trafficking legislation enacted in 2011; therefore, the Marshall Islands is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. Since achieving two trafficking convictions during the previous reporting period, the government has not reported any new trafficking investigations or prosecutions. The government did not take steps to identify proactively and protect victims of sex trafficking or educate the public about human trafficking.
Recommendations for the Marshall Islands: Train law enforcement and judicial officials to implement new anti-trafficking laws; increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and punish trafficking offenders and apply stringent sentences to convicted offenders; take steps to prosecute public officials when there is evidence they are complicit in trafficking activities or hindering ongoing trafficking prosecutions; work with NGOs and international organizations to provide protective services to victims; make efforts to study human trafficking in the country; adopt proactive procedures to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups, such as foreign workers and women in prostitution; develop and conduct anti-trafficking information and education campaigns; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
The RMI government made negligible anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Article 251 of its criminal code, enacted in 2011, prohibits all forms of human trafficking and prescribes penalties of up to 35 months’ imprisonment and a $5,000 fine for the trafficking of adults, and up to 10 years’ imprisonment and a $10,000 fine for the trafficking of children. The penalties for the trafficking of children are sufficiently stringent, but the penalties for trafficking adults are not, and neither penalty is commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In addition to trafficking, Article 251 also criminalizes other activities, including labor violations and promotion of prostitution. The RMI government did not report any trafficking investigations, prosecutions, or convictions during the year, in contrast with the two trafficking prosecutions and convictions reported during the previous reporting year. The government did not identify any victims of trafficking, investigate any trafficking cases, or prosecute any offenders under the 2011 legislation during this reporting year.
In 2011, local sources reported that an immigration official who allegedly had provided entry permits for Chinese women coming to the RMI to engage in prostitution for a Chinese national who owns several businesses in Majuro. The government did not, however, report any efforts this year to investigate, prosecute, or convict government employees for trafficking or trafficking-related offenses. The government also did not provide training to law enforcement or court personnel on the provisions of the 2011 legislation, or training on how to identify trafficking victims and prosecute trafficking offenders.
The RMI government made no efforts to identify trafficking victims or ensure their access to protective services during the year. Law enforcement and social services personnel do not employ systematic procedures to identify victims of trafficking proactively among high-risk populations with whom they come in contact, which is a risk factor for victims being punished for acts committed as a result of being trafficked. The government also does not have any mechanisms in place to ensure that trafficking victims receive access to legal, medical, or psychological services, and did not make efforts to identify or reach out to international organizations or community groups to provide such assistance. The government does not provide legal alternatives to the removal of victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution.
The government made no efforts to prevent trafficking during the year. It did not conduct any public campaigns or take other steps to raise public awareness about the dangers of trafficking. The government did not provide general human trafficking awareness training or guidelines to government employees, nor did it take steps to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts among RMI residents. The RMI is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.