The government maintained minimal 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 opening a sex trafficking investigation involving one potential victim and one alleged perpetrator; the investigation was closed at the end of the reporting period due to the alleged victim’s assertion that no crime was committed. The government reported three investigations into child sex trafficking initiated in prior reporting periods had concluded; one case was closed because the alleged trafficker fled the country, one case was dismissed due to insufficient evidence, and one case was dismissed due to the alleged victim’s assertion that no crime was committed. The government reported the conclusion of a sex trafficking prosecution initiated in 2019. The prosecution stemmed from a case identified during a 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. The government charged a Chinese national with promoting commercial sex and child sex trafficking in the case; however, the individual fled the country prior to prosecution, and the case was closed. Separately, authorities conducted a raid on a suspected brothel and found it was not in operation; however, authorities did report a current investigation into a different suspected brothel. The government has not convicted any traffickers since 2011.
In the previous reporting period, the government stated 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. The NTHT reported conducting a one-day training workshop focused on trafficking investigations, victim services, and international obligations; an unspecified number of law enforcement, immigration, and labor officials attended the training. Stakeholders identified a need for a dedicated role in law enforcement focused primarily on anti-trafficking efforts, and the government acknowledged a lack of 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 absence of sufficient institutionalized law enforcement training, recruitment of officers, law enforcement facilities, and funding as obstacles to combating trafficking.