The Government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) 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 RMI was upgraded to Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by enacting a comprehensive trafficking law with increased penalties, continuing implementation of the National Action Plan to Combat Trafficking, and increasing training of officials. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government did not report any systematic efforts to identify trafficking victims among foreign and local women in prostitution and did not prosecute or convict any individuals for trafficking offenses.

Increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers under the new law, sentencing them to penalties appropriate for the seriousness of the crime; adopt proactive procedures to identify trafficking victims among all vulnerable groups, such as children, women in prostitution, and foreign fishermen, and train officials on their use; strengthen efforts to implement the national action plan; train law enforcement and prosecution officials to implement the anti-trafficking laws; strengthen efforts to fund and administer protective services for victims in cooperation with NGOs and international organizations; develop and conduct anti-trafficking education and awareness-raising campaigns; undertake research to study human trafficking in the country; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

The government increased law enforcement efforts. The parliament enacted the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons Act in April 2017, criminalizing all forms of sex and labor trafficking and prescribing penalties of up to 15 years imprisonment and a fine of $10,000, which were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with other serious crimes, such as rape. The government investigated one new case of child sex trafficking during the reporting period and observers noted at least one additional case of child sex trafficking under investigation, compared with two investigations in the prior reporting period. Both cases involved foreign citizens sexually abusing Marshallese children; one of the cases involved transporting the child outside the country. As in the previous reporting period, the government did not report prosecutions or convictions for trafficking crimes, although the government continued to cooperate with a foreign government investigation of a trafficking case involving a Marshallese man who may be prosecuted outside the Marshall Islands. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking offenses. The government reported increased law enforcement training on trafficking, including participating in the first graduating class of 16 sea patrol officers of the Regional Marine & Terrestrial Conservation Law Enforcement Academy, which focused on environmental protection and combating human trafficking, funded by foreign donors.

The government maintained its efforts to identify trafficking victims and to ensure their access to protective services. The government continued to implement the national action plan, including increasing available victim services and developing investigation and identification mechanisms. The government identified one child sex trafficking victim and a second potential case of child sex trafficking compared with one identified victim last year. Law enforcement and social services personnel did not employ systematic procedures to identify trafficking victims among women in prostitution and child sex trafficking, but did so in the fishing sector; during the reporting period, law enforcement implemented a standard operating procedure to screen over 100 crewmembers aboard three abandoned fishing vessels but did not identify any cases of trafficking. The government provided protective services at no cost for trafficking and other victims jointly with non-governmental, faith-based and international organizations, which included counseling, legal assistance, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and accessible services for victims with disabilities. Female minor victims aged 14 and above were assigned to survivor support services and placed in a network of approved safe houses. Adult victims were able to leave safe houses or shelters unchaperoned unless it was determined that doing so might put them in danger. There are memoranda of understanding between multiple agencies for victim referral and the Ministry of Internal Affairs funded two permanent social workers to assist victims of trafficking. The government contributed approximately $93,000 to an NGO, Micronesian Legal Services Corporation, which provided free legal advice and support to victims, including trafficking victims. The government also used its own funds together with funding from an international organization and foreign governments to train more than 50 participants from the government, education, and NGOs for training on psychological trauma, to include providing aid for trafficking victims.

The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The National Task Force on Human Trafficking (NTHT) was the lead coordinating body for the government’s anti-trafficking efforts. The NTHT collaborated with other governmental and non-governmental entities to conduct awareness campaigns, using materials developed under the national action plan, reaching more than 2,400 people. The government took measures to prevent the commercial sexual exploitation of vulnerable populations, such as underage girls, by prohibiting unauthorized visitors on board licensed foreign fishing vessels docked in Majuro and issuing immigration day passes for most crewmembers that mandate they return to their ship by the evening. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel, nor did it take steps to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. The RMI is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

As reported in the past five years, the Marshall Islands is a source, transit, and destination country for children, women, and men. It is a destination for East Asian and Marshallese girls and women subjected to sex trafficking and a transit point for foreign fishermen subjected to labor trafficking. Women and girls are recruited and transported by hotel and bar staff and family members and subjected to sex trafficking with crewmembers of foreign fishing and transshipping vessels that dock in Majuro. Observers report sexual activity involving foreign fishermen has moved from fishing vessels to local bars and hotels. Some of these foreign fishermen themselves are subjected to conditions indicative of forced labor on ships in Marshallese waters. Foreign women, most of whom are long-term residents, are subjected to forced prostitution in establishments frequented by crewmembers of Chinese and other foreign fishing vessels; some Chinese women are recruited with the promise of other work and, after paying large recruitment fees, are forced into prostitution. Limited reports indicate some Marshallese searching for work in the United States experience indicators of trafficking, such as passport confiscation, excessive work hours, and fraudulent recruitment. Some Marshallese children are transported to the United States, where they are subjected to situations of sexual abuse with indicators of sex trafficking. Some traditional cultural practices caused impoverished Marshallese from outer islands to serve as indentured labor in the home or on the land of wealthier or more powerful family members.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future