The government increased law enforcement efforts. The Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2017 criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to 15 years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000, or both if the victim was an adult, and up to 20 years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to $15,000, or both if the victim was under age 18. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with other serious crimes, such as rape. The government reported one trafficking investigation, the same number as reported during the previous reporting period. The government did not report the outcome of two investigations into child sex trafficking initiated in prior reporting periods. The government initiated one prosecution for sex trafficking in 2019—this was the government’s first trafficking prosecution since 2011. Both the investigation and prosecution stemmed from a case identified during the prior reporting period, when local media uncovered alleged child sex trafficking of Marshallese girls at a brothel near the capitol building and alleged police inaction until after the newspaper published the story. In August 2019, media continued to report the brothel was operating with child sex trafficking victims. In February 2020, the government charged a Chinese national with promoting commercial sex and child sex trafficking in the case; the case was ongoing at the end of the reporting period. The government has not convicted any traffickers since 2011.
In January 2020, the government reported it was investigating and had removed the Director of Immigration because of allegations of trafficking complicity; the investigation remained ongoing at the end of the reporting period. The government did not report any other investigations into official complicity or any prosecutions or convictions of allegedly complicit officials. Marshallese law enforcement officials cooperated with a foreign government on an ongoing international trafficking case. An unspecified number of law enforcement officials attended international trafficking trainings during the reporting period. Stakeholders identified the need for a dedicated role in law enforcement focused primarily on anti-trafficking efforts. The government acknowledged a need for improved technical capacity for law enforcement on investigative and surveillance techniques and for prosecutors on case management and court filing procedures. Additionally, the government noted the lack of sufficient institutionalized law enforcement training, recruitment of officers, law enforcement facilities, and funding as obstacles to combating trafficking.