The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) is a source and destination country for RMI women and girls and women from East Asia subjected to sex trafficking. RMI girls are recruited by foreign business owners to engage in prostitution with crew members of foreign fishing and transshipping vessels that dock in Majuro. Foreign women, most of whom are long-term residents, are subjected to forced prostitution in establishments 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.
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. During the year, the RMI President and Foreign Minister acknowledged the existence of human trafficking in RMI in public addresses, and the government initiated a trafficking investigation involving women subjected to forced prostitution. Despite these efforts, the government has not shown evidence of increasing efforts to address human trafficking compared to the previous year; therefore, RMI is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. The government did not provide evidence of implementing its 2011 anti-trafficking legislation. It has not reported any trafficking prosecutions since 2011. The government made no efforts to proactively identify victims, especially among vulnerable populations, such as foreign and local women in prostitution and foreign men working on fishing vessels in Marshallese waters.
Recommendations for the Marshall Islands:
Adopt proactive procedures to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups, such as foreign workers and individuals in prostitution; increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish trafficking offenders; train law enforcement and judicial officials to implement the existing anti-trafficking laws; establish a government anti-trafficking taskforce that can spearhead anti-trafficking efforts; establish and implement a national plan of action that outlines RMI’s plan to combat trafficking; prosecute public officials when there is evidence they are complicit in trafficking activities or hindering ongoing trafficking prosecutions; fund and administer, in cooperation with NGOs and international organizations, protective services for victims; develop and conduct anti-trafficking information and education campaigns; undertake additional research to study human trafficking in the country; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
The RMI government made limited anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Article 251 of its criminal code, enacted in 2011, prohibits only transnational forms of human trafficking and prescribes penalties of up to 35 months’ imprisonment for the trafficking of adults and up to 10 years’ imprisonment for the trafficking of children. The penalties for the trafficking of children are sufficiently stringent, but the penalties for trafficking adults are not, and only the penalties for the trafficking of children are 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 the promotion of prostitution.
In 2013, the government initiated one investigation involving foreign women in forced prostitution; this case remained under investigation at the end of the reporting period. The government did not report any prosecutions of trafficking offenses or convictions of any traffickers in 2012 or 2013. The government did not report any criminal investigations or prosecutions of government employees for alleged complicity in human trafficking during the year. The government did not provide training to law enforcement or judicial officials on the 2011 anti-trafficking legislation, the identification of victims, or the prosecution of trafficking offenders; however, government officials attended human trafficking training and workshops funded and provided by a foreign government.
The RMI government made no efforts to identify trafficking victims or ensure their access to protective services during the reporting period. The government did not identify any victims of trafficking in 2013. Law enforcement and social services personnel did not employ systematic procedures to proactively identify trafficking victims among high-risk populations, such as women in prostitution and foreign migrant workers onboard fishing vessels. The government reportedly made available free medical, legal, and police protection for victims of trafficking, but no formal mechanism existed to verify this assistance was provided to any victims. The government did not provide or allocate funding specifically for the provision of services to victims. The government did not provide legal alternatives to the removal of victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution and did not provide victims long-term residency visas or legal employment opportunities.
The government made limited efforts to prevent trafficking during the reporting period. The government, in cooperation with a local NGO, conducted several public awareness campaigns. During the year, the RMI President and Foreign Minister acknowledged the existence of human trafficking in RMI in public addresses. The government drafted a national plan of action in August 2013; the plan awaited approval by the RMI legislature at the end of the reporting period. The approval of the establishment of a National Task Force on Human Trafficking also remained pending at the end of the reporting period. The government did not provide 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.