MICRONESIA, FEDERATED STATES OF: Tier 2
The Government of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, FSM remained on Tier 2. The government increased the number of investigations into alleged trafficking cases, leading to the conviction of one offender, and strengthened its efforts to raise trafficking awareness among law enforcement and government officials. It established new mechanisms—including the creation of an anti-trafficking coordinator position—to oversee government anti-trafficking work, and two out of four states approved state-level action plans to implement the FSM National Action Plan. Despite these efforts, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Although the government prosecuted and convicted a trafficker, the courts allowed the individual to pay restitution and repatriation costs in lieu of a prison sentence. Authorities did not follow an established procedure to identify victims among vulnerable populations or refer them to protective services, which remained undeveloped and under-resourced.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA
Increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict trafficking offenders, and sentence them to penalties commensurate with the seriousness of the crime, and cease the practice of allowing offenders to pay fines or restitution in lieu of being sentenced to prison; develop and implement procedures for the proactive identification of trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, including in the legal commercial sex industry; develop and implement a victim referral system and establish and allocate funding for specialized protective services for trafficking victims, including shelters; strengthen efforts to implement the National Action Plan, including through establishment of state-level anti-trafficking taskforces in all four states; and strengthen efforts to conduct anti-trafficking awareness campaigns targeted to government and law enforcement officials, traditional leaders, healthcare professionals, and the public.
The government increased investigations and training, but it convicted only one offender, who was allowed to pay restitution to his victims in lieu of a prison sentence. The national anti-trafficking law criminalizes all forms of trafficking, and each of the four states has its own trafficking law prescribing penalties. The national and state laws prescribe prison sentences that are sufficiently stringent. However, when allowing for a fine in lieu of imprisonment, the prescribed punishment is not commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. In lieu of prison time, offenders convicted in Chuuk, Yap, and Kosrae states can elect to pay a fine as low as $5,000; offenders may face even lower fines in Pohnpei State. Courts may also approve plea bargains requiring the payment of restitution costs to victims in lieu of prison sentences. The national law prescribes penalties of up to 15 years imprisonment or fines up to $25,000 for adult trafficking, and 30 years imprisonment or fines up to $50,000 for child trafficking. Pohnpei State’s law prohibits sex trafficking of children and forced labor of adults and prescribes penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment or fines up to $10,000, or both; however, it does not explicitly prohibit sex trafficking of adults. Chuuk State’s law includes the same prohibitions, but prescribes penalties of up to 15 years imprisonment for forced labor, 25 years imprisonment for child sex trafficking, or fines up to $10,000, or both. Kosrae State’s law prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties of 10 years imprisonment or fines up to $20,000, or both. Yap State’s law prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties of up to 15 years imprisonment or fines up to $1 million, or both.
In 2016, the government reported conducting investigations into eight alleged trafficking cases in Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Yap, compared to five in 2015 and two in 2014. Of these investigations, only one led to a prosecution culminating in a conviction, compared to one conviction in 2015 and none in 2014. Yap State convicted a local restaurant owner for subjecting two Filipino citizens to forced labor, but the courts approved a plea bargain that obligated the trafficker to pay full repatriation costs and $7,000 in restitution for each victim. Two other cases identified in 2016 were pending a trial date at the end of the reporting period. In partnership with an international organization and a foreign government, the government conducted anti-trafficking training for 70 law enforcement officials and 75 service providers—an increase from 30 law enforcement and government officials in 2015. Authorities did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking offenses.
The government maintained inadequate efforts to identify and protect trafficking victims. Law enforcement, health care, and labor inspection entities did not employ standard procedures for identifying victims in the commercial sex industry, which was legal in all but Kosrae State. The government did not allocate any funding for protective services or establish shelters dedicated to trafficking victims. Authorities reported providing physical security and psychological counseling to an unspecified number of trafficking victims during the reporting period. The Department of Justice continued to work with state governments on development of a directory listing churches, NGOs, and local government bodies that may be able to provide limited additional protective services to trafficking victims. However, the government did not report how many victims benefited from any of these services. Authorities did not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign trafficking victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution, nor did it provide incentives for victims to participate in trials. Although there were no reports of victims punished for crimes committed as a direct result of having been subjected to trafficking, some potential victims may have been detained due to a lack of formal victim identification procedures.
The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. Authorities continued to dedicate a small amount of funding for anti-trafficking activities but did not provide details on how these funds were allocated. In January 2017, the government opened an office dedicated to anti-trafficking efforts under the direction of a newly appointed coordinator and staffed by two investigators; the office opened too late in the reporting period to generate any notable progress. Officials reported continued efforts to raise trafficking awareness in furtherance of the National Action Plan—including among traditional leaders whose communities may be at higher risk—but did not provide statistics or specific information about the nature of awareness raising campaigns. Two of the four states established anti-trafficking taskforces guided by respective state action plans during the reporting period; the remaining two were in the process of creating taskforces at the end of the reporting period. The government did not develop campaigns or disseminate informational materials aimed at reducing the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.
As reported over the past five years, the Federated States of Micronesia is a source, transit and, to a lesser extent, destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The groups most vulnerable to trafficking in FSM include foreign migrant workers, especially from the Philippines, and Micronesian women in prostitution. Women and girls are allegedly exploited in prostitution (child sex trafficking for girls) by the crew members of docked Asian fishing vessels and by foreign construction workers. FSM women recruited with promises of well-paying jobs in the United States and its territories are subsequently forced into prostitution or domestic labor upon arrival. Local authorities claim many sex trafficking cases are unreported due to social stigma and victims’ fear of possible repercussions in their home communities. Foreign migrants from Southeast Asian countries report working in conditions indicative of human trafficking on Asian fishing vessels in FSM or its territorial waters.