Tonga is a destination country for women subjected to sex trafficking and is, to a lesser extent, a source country for women and children subjected to domestic sex trafficking and forced labor. East Asian women, especially those from China, are prostituted in clandestine establishments operating as legitimate businesses; some East Asian women are recruited from their home countries for legitimate work in Tonga, paying large sums of money in recruitment fees, and upon arrival are forced into prostitution.
The Government of Tonga does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the year, the government acknowledged human trafficking as an issue of concern and funded two organizations that provide victim services, but could not report any anti-trafficking law enforcement actions or efforts to identify and protect victims of trafficking. The government showed no progress in developing a national coordinating body on human trafficking issues, nor did it develop or conduct anti-trafficking education campaigns.
Recommendations for Tonga: Adopt proactive procedures to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups; increase training for law enforcement officials on human trafficking and how to identify and assist trafficking victims; show more vigorous efforts to investigate, prosecute, and punish trafficking offenders; develop strategies to penetrate insular communities with suspected ties to trafficking; enact a law or establish a policy that provides explicit protections for victims of trafficking, such as restitution, benefits, and immigration relief; develop and conduct anti-trafficking information and education campaigns; publicly recognize, investigate, prosecute, and punish incidences of child sex trafficking; develop a national action plan for countering trafficking in persons; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
The Government of Tonga made negligible progress in its law enforcement efforts to address human trafficking. Tonga prohibits all forms of human trafficking through its Revised Transnational Crimes Act of 2007, which defines human trafficking as including forced labor and forced prostitution. This law prescribes up to 25 years’ imprisonment for these offenses, which is sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape. Since the first trafficking case in April 2011, the government has not identified any victims of trafficking or investigated any trafficking cases. The government did not report funding any training for law enforcement during the reporting period. Corruption is a known problem in Tonga. The government, however, did not report any investigations, prosecutions, convictions, or punishments of officials for complicity in human trafficking during the reporting period, and there were no known allegations that officials had been complicit in such practices.
The Government of Tonga made limited progress in identifying trafficking victims or ensuring their access to protective services during the year. The government did not develop or employ systematic procedures for the identification of trafficking victims among at-risk groups such as undocumented migrants or women in prostitution, and no victims were identified during the reporting period. It continued to refer victims of general crimes to NGO providers of victim services and would have followed the same procedure if potential trafficked victims were identified. The government provided a total equivalent to approximately $42,600 in funding from its national budget to two local NGOs during the reporting period for operations related to assisting women and children victims of crime.
Under the government’s Immigration Act, the principal immigration officer holds broad discretionary authority in granting human trafficking victims permits to stay in the country for any length of time necessary for the protection of victims. Trafficking victims could be granted asylum in Tonga if they fear retribution or hardship in their country of origin, though no trafficking victim has ever requested asylum. While victims have the ability to file civil charges for compensation against their traffickers, there were no such cases in which this occurred.
The Government of Tonga made limited efforts to prevent human trafficking during the reporting period. The government conducted routine law enforcement trainings that included elements of trafficking, and leveraged national media attention through the country’s first trafficking case in 2011 to send a strong anti-trafficking message. The government did not take action to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor during the reporting period. Tonga is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.