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 but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore FSM remained on Tier 2. These efforts included funding an anti-trafficking training for law enforcement officials and providing $120,000 for trafficking victim services. The government established an anti-human trafficking division within the Department of Justice. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government remained without comprehensive standard operating procedures (SOPs) for proactive victim identification and referral to protection services. Law enforcement and judicial understanding of trafficking remained low and overall protection services continued to be insufficient.

PRIORITIZED RECOMMENDATIONS:

Increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, and sentence convicted traffickers to significant prison terms.Finalize, disseminate, and train officials on procedures for the proactive identification and referral of trafficking victims to rehabilitation services.Increase resources for protection services for trafficking victims.Increase and institutionalize anti-trafficking training for police, prosecutors, and judges, including on how to implement a victim-centered approach.Provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign trafficking victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution.Strengthen efforts to implement the national action plan (NAP) and state-level plans, including through staffing a governmental anti-trafficking secretariat.Monitor foreign labor recruitment for trafficking indicators, including the coercive use of debt.Strengthen efforts to conduct anti-trafficking awareness campaigns targeted to traditional leaders, health care professionals, and the public, including those citizens of FSM who might migrate for work overseas.

PROSECUTION

The government maintained law enforcement efforts. The national anti-trafficking law criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to 15 years’ imprisonment, a fine of $5,000-$25,000, or both for offenses involving adult victims, and up to 30 years’ imprisonment, a fine of between $5,000-$50,000, or both for offenses involving child victims. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regards to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape. Each of Micronesia’s four states had its own laws that criminalized trafficking offenses; however, Pohnpei and Chuuk States did not explicitly prohibit adult sex trafficking. Cases prosecuted at the state level may be heard subsequently at the national level, under national anti-trafficking law, depending on which court hears a case.

The government reported investigating one alleged trafficking case, compared with nine in 2018, and prosecuting eight alleged traffickers, compared with seven in 2018. Courts convicted six traffickers during the reporting period, the same as in 2018. A sex trafficking case involving one victim and five alleged traffickers remained ongoing at the end of the reporting period; in March 2020, three of the traffickers were convicted of human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of a minor while charges remained ongoing for the other two alleged traffickers. The acting Attorney General of Yap was murdered, and some media reports stated the motivation behind the action may have been related to her work against human trafficking. Two perpetrators were arrested and were awaiting trial at the end of the reporting period.

During a previous reporting period, the Department of Justice (DOJ) assigned a full-time assistant attorney general to prosecute all human trafficking cases and hired four investigators, two in Chuuk and two in Kosrae, who specialize in human trafficking; these positions remained unchanged at the end of the reporting period. In July 2019, the government funded a three-day anti-trafficking and victim centered approach training for law enforcement officials; an international government agency conducted the training. Unlike in previous years, the government did not report providing DOJ with funding for investigation and awareness programs. DOJ continued to provide training for law enforcement, judges, lawyers, health providers, faith-based organizations, and youth and women’s groups at the state and national level. Despite these trainings, judges lacked specialized training and consequently some judges lacked sensitivity to trafficking issues and the trauma victims experienced. In previous years, the absence of judicial training and Micronesian law, which allowed for penalties of fines in lieu of imprisonment, regularly permitted judges to apply penalties that were disproportionately low to the severity of the crimes. The government’s police academy training for new cadets included a mandatory training on investigating trafficking cases and how to interview potential victims. Observers stated police still required additional training on sex trafficking and sophisticated investigation techniques. The insular nature of the small island communities at times protected traffickers and impeded investigations. Police did not frequently investigate or charge traffickers whose role was to facilitate rather than impose exploitation, such as hotel owners, taxi drivers, and family members. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking offenses.

PROTECTION

The government maintained efforts to protect victims. In the previous reporting period, the government finalized and approved SOPs for victim assistance and referral to state law enforcement; however, the government remained without comprehensive SOPs to proactively identify trafficking victims and refer them to rehabilitation services. Due to insufficient identification efforts, authorities may have penalized unidentified victims through law enforcement actions against them, such as deportation. Similar to last year, the government did not report its proactive identification of any victims—five victims self-identified throughout the reporting period. The government reported providing food, clothing, medical services, psychological evaluation, counseling services, assistance with the appointment of legal guardians, and academic and social reintegration support, in partnership with an international organization, to four trafficking victims. This was compared with the government providing limited protection services to 10 victims during the previous reporting period.

In the previous reporting period, the government opened its first shelter, available to all victims of crimes, in Chuuk; the shelter continued to provide services throughout this reporting period. The government provided $120,000 for victim services, an increase from $100,000 in 2018; however, unlike the previous reporting period, the government did not report providing additional funds towards a trafficking victim psychologist and the trafficking hotline. A trafficking hotline established in a previous reporting period continued to operate 24 hours a day in English and local languages, and while it received calls during the reporting period, none of the calls resulted in trafficking investigations. In the previous reporting period, the DOJ employed an anti-human trafficking coordinator at the national level and three assistant coordinators at the state level, who provided support to the victim from the investigation through the trial and for several years after the disposition of the victim’s case; the government did not report if this position continued during the reporting period. During the reporting year, a judge in Chuuk granted the implementation of special trial procedures by agreeing to close the court and providing a screen for the victim to sit behind during the victim’s testimony. Courts ordered convicted traffickers to pay restitution to three victims during the reporting period. The government did not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign trafficking victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution.

PREVENTION

The government decreased efforts to prevent trafficking. DOJ coordinated the government’s anti-trafficking efforts. In August 2019, an executive order established the Division of Anti-Human Trafficking within the DOJ; the division is tasked with conducting public awareness campaigns, developing anti-trafficking training programs, providing victim protection services, and assisting in investigations. Each of the four states’ anti-trafficking task forces were comprised of members of state and national law enforcement, the legal community, medical and mental health professionals, immigration officials, and women’s empowerment and faith-based groups; only Chuuk and Pohnpei’s task forces were active during the reporting period.

The government reported it continued to implement its 2014 NAP and three of the four states had action plans linked to the NAP. DOJ, in partnership with the Department of Education, conducted a series of awareness activities in Pohnpei schools; similar programs were reportedly conducted in Chuuk and at college campuses and churches. The government did not report funding DOJ for investigations and awareness activities, a decrease compared with the $100,000 provided in 2018. However, the government reported it conducted monthly community awareness programs throughout the four states. The government did not report any efforts to monitor foreign labor recruitment or preparation of Micronesian women and girls leaving to work in other countries. While the government reported conducting awareness campaigns focused on destigmatizing individuals in commercial sex and closing known brothels, it did not report efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in the FSM, and traffickers exploit victims from FSM abroad. Sex traffickers exploit Micronesian women and girls through commercial sex with the crewmembers of docked Asian fishing vessels, crewmembers on vessels in FSM territorial waters, or with foreign construction workers. Some family members exploit Micronesian girls in sex trafficking. Local authorities claim many sex trafficking cases are unreported due to social stigma and victims’ fear of possible repercussions in their home communities. Foreign and domestic employers in FSM exploit low-skilled foreign migrant workers in forced labor, including in restaurants. Foreign migrants from Southeast Asian countries report working in conditions indicative of human trafficking on Asian fishing vessels in FSM or its territorial waters. Traffickers recruit FSM women with promises of well-paying jobs in the United States and its territories; but, upon their arrival, they are subsequently forced into commercial sex or domestic servitude.

U.S. Department of State

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