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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 with the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore FSM remained on Tier 2. These efforts included identifying more trafficking victims, allocating funding for its third trafficking victim shelter, conducting trafficking awareness activities for the public, and providing an annual budget to its anti-trafficking office. Furthermore, the government increased investigations, prosecutions, and convictions of trafficking crimes, including initiating a prosecution of a government official. 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, which may have resulted in the penalization of unidentified victims. Despite some judicial officials’ limited understanding of the trauma victims experienced, the government did not report providing any trauma-informed training activities for judicial officials.

  • Increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers and sentence convicted traffickers to significant prison terms, including victims’ family members and complicit officials who facilitate or directly benefit from trafficking.
  • Finalize, disseminate, and train officials on procedures for the proactive identification and referral of trafficking victims to protective services.
  • Increase resources for protection services for trafficking victims.
  • Screen for trafficking indicators among vulnerable groups, including individuals in commercial sex.
  • 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.
  • Take steps to eliminate recruitment or placement fees charged to workers by labor recruiters and ensure any recruitment fees are paid by employers.
  • 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.
  • Allocate funding to the trafficking hotline, including for a trafficking victim psychologist.

The government increased 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 $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 crimes; 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 investigated eight suspected trafficking crimes and prosecuted nine alleged traffickers, compared with no investigations and four prosecutions the previous year. Media reported that the October 2019 murder of the acting Attorney General of Yap may have been related to her prosecution work, including on human trafficking. The prosecution of the two defendants, begun in 2019, remained ongoing at the end of the reporting period.

Courts convicted nine sex traffickers and sentenced five of them during the reporting period, compared with four traffickers convicted the previous year. Courts sentenced three traffickers to significant prison terms, for a total of 60 percent of traffickers serving significant prison time of one year or longer. While the length of some sentences increased, approximately 40 percent of all trafficking convictions resulted in fines, probation, or prison sentences of less than one year, which did not serve to deter the crime or adequately reflect the nature of the offense. Observers reported that longstanding concerns about lenient sentences of a year or less, or sentences that were not served on consecutive days, created potential safety problems for trafficking victims and weakened deterrence. The four other convicted traffickers’ sentences were pending in the Pohnpei State court. Authorities charged a government official with sex trafficking under the anti-trafficking law, as well as other crimes under other laws. Authorities removed the official from duty while pending trial. The government did not report any other investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking crimes.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) assigned a full-time assistant attorney general to prosecute all human trafficking cases. In addition, DOJ had three dedicated investigators who specialized in human trafficking: one in Chuuk, one in Pohnpei, and one in Kosrae. The government, in partnership with an international organization, trained law enforcement officials on victim identification and victim assistance. Compared with the previous reporting period, the government did not report providing training activities to judicial officials or health care providers. Judges lacked specialized training, and consequently, some judges lacked sensitivity to trafficking issues and the trauma victims experienced, resulting in judges sentencing traffickers to penalties that were disproportionately low to the severity of the crime. The government’s police academy training for new cadets included mandatory training on investigating trafficking cases and how to interview potential victims. Observers stated police still required additional training on sex trafficking and investigation techniques. Police frequently did not investigate or charge those who abetted trafficking crimes, such as hotel owners, taxi drivers, and family members. Government officials reported the lack of personnel, resources, and funding impaired anti-trafficking monitoring efforts of forced labor or sex trafficking on vessels in Micronesian waters. The insular nature of the small island communities at times protected traffickers and impeded investigations.

The government increased efforts to protect victims. The government identified 13 sex trafficking victims, compared with four victims in the previous reporting period. In 2018, the government, in partnership with an international organization and State governments, finalized and approved SOPs for victim assistance and referral for state law enforcement; however, the national government remained without comprehensive SOPs to proactively identify trafficking victims and refer them to services. Due to a lack of formal identification procedures, authorities may have deported some unidentified trafficking victims. In addition, the current SOPs did not contain measures to screen for trafficking indicators among LGBTQI+ individuals, who were vulnerable to trafficking.

The government referred all 13 victims, including seven children, to an international organization for shelter and protective services. The government, in partnership with an international organization, provided counseling services and legal assistance to all 13 victims. The government allocated $15,000 to provide victim services to one victim, compared with no funding reported the previous year. The government, in partnership with an international organization, provided one child victim with shelter, clothing, counseling, and food. In the previous reporting period, the government provided food, clothing, medical services, psychological evaluation, counseling services, and academic and social integration support to two victims.

The government operated two shelters for victims of crime, including trafficking victims: one in Pohnpei and another in Chuuk. The government allocated funding for a third shelter in Kosrae and was planning for a fourth shelter in Yap, which was not yet operational by the end of the reporting period. Observers noted a need for the government to train shelter staff on shelter management, victim care, shelter security, and trafficking indicators. The government, in partnership with an international organization, developed a “Service Provider” directory of civil society organizations that could provide protective services to victims. During the previous reporting period, an international organization facilitated a port security project that included a component on gender-based violence and trafficking victim identification and protection procedures; DOJ helped facilitate the project and was the lead agency for implementing victim-centered processes. In the same year, DOJ, with assistance from an international organization, finalized a needs assessment and action plan for the implementation of the project. The government reported pandemic restrictions delayed implementation of the project. The government funded a trafficking victim psychologist for the trafficking hotline; the government last allocated funding for this in 2019. The trafficking hotline continued to operate 24 hours a day in English and local languages. Courts ordered convicted traffickers to pay restitution to three victims. The government did not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign trafficking victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution.

The government-maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. The Anti-Human Trafficking Office within the DOJ coordinated the government’s anti-trafficking efforts. The office had a lead coordinator and dedicated staff. The office conducted public awareness campaigns, developed anti-trafficking training programs, provided victim protection services, and assisted in investigations. The government provided the office with an annual budget of $350,000 for operations and to implement the NAP, compared with $150,000 the previous year. The government reported it continued to implement its 2014 NAP and three of the four states had action plans linked to the NAP. Each of the four states had an anti-trafficking task force composed 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.

In partnership with an international organization, the government held awareness campaigns targeting the Filipino community, women groups, and youth groups. The government established a policy that required labor recruiters to register with the government before conducting recruitment. The government did not report any efforts to monitor foreign labor recruitment or provide information on safe migration and human trafficking indicators to Micronesian nationals leaving to work in other countries. Furthermore, the government did not report its regulation of recruitment fees. While the government continued to report conducting awareness campaigns focused on destigmatizing individuals in commercial sex and closing known commercial sex establishments, it did not report efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in 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 foreign construction workers. Some family members exploit Micronesian girls in sex trafficking. There are reports of children exploited in commercial sex facilitated by taxi drivers. Local authorities claim many sex trafficking cases are unreported due to social stigma and victims’ fear of possible repercussions in their home communities. LGBTQI+ individuals are vulnerable to trafficking. 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 and men with promises of well-paying jobs in the United States and its territories but upon their arrival they are subsequently forced into commercial sex, domestic servitude, or forced labor.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future