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 conducting awareness raising activities, administering training to its law enforcement officials, constructing and beginning operation of its fourth shelter, and continuing the prosecution of a government official for alleged sex trafficking.  The government, in partnership with an international organization, drafted victim identification and referral SOPs.  However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas.  Authorities identified and assisted fewer trafficking victims.  The government investigated fewer trafficking crimes and did not initiate any trafficking prosecutions or convict any traffickers.

  • Investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes, including those involving family members and complicit officials, and seek adequate penalties for convicted traffickers, which should involve significant prison terms.
  • Increase efforts to identify and assist more victims, such as by disseminating and training officials on victim identification and referral SOPs.
  • Establish an MOU between the national government and state governments to ensure trafficking victims identified by state governments can access services at the national level.
  • Screen for trafficking indicators among vulnerable groups, including individuals in commercial sex.
  • Institutionalize anti-trafficking training for police, immigration officials, prosecutors, and state level judges, including on how to implement a victim-centered approach.
  • Increase resources for protection services and collaborate with, and provide financial or in-kind support to, NGOs who assist trafficking victims.
  • Update and implement the NAP and state-level plans.
  • Improve coordination and communication between national and state government agencies and NGOs by regularizing national and state task force meetings and allocating resources to their activities.
  • Conduct anti-trafficking awareness campaigns targeting traditional leaders, health care professionals, and the public, including FSM citizens who might migrate for work overseas.
  • Monitor foreign labor recruitment for trafficking indicators, including the coercive use of debt.
  • Take steps to eliminate recruitment or placement fees charged to workers by labor recruiters and ensure any recruitment fees are paid by employers.
  • Provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign trafficking victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution.

The government decreased 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 crimes involving adult victims, and up to 30 years’ imprisonment, a fine of $5,000-$50,000, or both for crimes 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 the national anti-trafficking law, depending on which court hears a case.  

The government continued one sex trafficking investigation, compared with investigating seven sex trafficking cases in the previous reporting period, including some initiated in prior years.  Authorities did not initiate prosecution of any traffickers, compared with prosecuting six alleged sex traffickers in the previous reporting period, including some initiated in prior years.  Authorities closed one of the prosecutions due to insufficient evidence and two due to an expired statute of limitations; two prosecutions of one sex trafficker remained ongoing, and another case remained under appeal.  The government did not convict any traffickers, compared with convicting nine sex traffickers during the previous reporting period.  The government reported pandemic-related delays in court processing resulted in cases initiated in prior years being incorrectly included in the previous reporting period’s law enforcement data.  The government did not report on sentences handed down in the Pohnpei State court to four traffickers convicted in the previous reporting period.  In January 2023, Yap State court convicted two defendants for the October 2019 murder of the acting Attorney General of Yap; media reported the murder had been related to her prosecution work, including on human trafficking.  The national government and Pohnpei State government continued prosecutions against a former government official charged with multiple counts of sex trafficking under the Pohnpei State and national anti-trafficking laws, as well as other crimes under other laws, in three separate cases.  The government did not report any other investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking crimes.  

The FSM Anti-Human Trafficking Division under the FSM Department of Justice was the lead agency for national trafficking investigations and prosecutions.  The government had three dedicated investigators who specialized in human trafficking:  one in Chuuk, one in Pohnpei, and one in Kosrae.  The national government provided anti-trafficking training to its judges, immigration, customs, and quarantine officials, and, in partnership with an international organization, trained new cadets in the national and all four state governments’ police academies on victim identification and assistance; the government did not report providing anti-trafficking training to state level judges.  Observers stated national and state level police lacked sufficient training on trafficking crimes, to include labor trafficking, and investigative techniques.  Widespread observance of customary justice practices; social stigmatization; lack of sufficient resources and funding; and law enforcement officials’ limited understanding of trafficking, including trafficking indicators and investigative techniques, hindered effective law enforcement activity.  Police 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 labor or sex trafficking on vessels in Micronesian waters.  The insular nature of the small island communities protected traffickers and impeded investigations, and the government reported pandemic restrictions further hindered access to outer islands to conduct investigations.  The government reported courts remained open but operated in a limited capacity during most of the reporting period, which may have adversely affected the government’s ability to prosecute trafficking crimes.  The government did not report cooperating with foreign counterparts on any trafficking-related law enforcement activities.  

The government slightly increased efforts to protect victims.  The government identified three girls as sex trafficking victims, compared with identifying 13 sex trafficking victims in the previous reporting period.  The national government, in partnership with an international organization, drafted victim identification and referral SOPs; the government did not finalize or implement the SOPs by the end of the reporting period.  In addition, the SOPs did not contain adequate measures to screen for trafficking indicators among LGBTQI+ individuals or adults arrested for commercial sex.  Due to a lack of formal identification procedures, authorities may have deported some unidentified trafficking victims.  Government officials lacked an understanding of trafficking indicators and readiness to assist foreign national trafficking victims; authorities lacked SOPs on how to refer to care foreign nationals who self-identify as a trafficking victim to law enforcement.  

The government referred three victims to services, compared with 13 victims in the previous reporting period.  The government assisted one victim, compared with assisting 13 victims in the previous reporting period.  The government could provide shelter, legal assistance, and counseling services, and reported NGOs could provide additional services, including counseling, food, legal assistance, and shelter; the government did not report providing funding or in-kind resources to NGOs for these services.  The government did not allocate additional funding, outside of the AHTD’s annual budget, to provide victim services, compared with providing $15,000 in additional funding in the previous reporting period.  The national government operated one trafficking shelter in Pohnpei, and Chuuk and Yap state governments each operated a shelter for victims of crime, including trafficking.  In February 2023, the government completed construction of and began operation of a fourth shelter in Kosrae.  Observers noted shelter staff lacked training on shelter management, victim care, shelter security, and trafficking indicators.  The AHTD drafted SOPs for shelter management; authorities did not finalize the SOPs by the end of the reporting period.  The government could not provide any services for disabled trafficking victims.  The government reported it did not provide victims with adequate access to mental health services and victim reintegration services, including employment services and job training programs.  Civil society reported foreign victims faced language barriers and lacked awareness of available services to receive assistance.  Trafficking victims identified on outer islands faced difficulty accessing services since services were exclusively located on main islands, primarily Pohnpei.  

The government did not require victim participation in trafficking investigations or prosecutions; however, authorities reported one victim participated in the investigation of a trafficker.  The government reported some of the states’ judicial systems did not keep victim identities confidential due to the requirement to testify in court rather than utilizing written or video-recorded testimonies.  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 reported pandemic-related movement restrictions and a personnel shortage hindered its ability to provide protection services to trafficking victims in Chuuk, Kosrae, and Yap.

The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking.  The AHTD, which included a lead coordinator and dedicated staff,  coordinated the government’s anti-trafficking efforts.  The government provided the office with an annual budget of $125,000 for operations, including shelter management, compared with $350,000 in the previous reporting period, which included its annual budget of $125,000 and a one-time $225,000 allocation for increasing victim protection services.  The national government and state governments each had anti-trafficking task forces comprising members of state and national government agencies, health care professionals, and civil society.  The government reported implementing its 2014 NAP, and three of the four states had action plans linked to the NAP.  Observers noted a lack of information sharing between agencies as some government officials lacked general awareness of anti-trafficking efforts.  National government and state governments lacked an MOU to ensure trafficking victims identified by state governments could access services at the national level.  

The government, directly and in partnership with an international organization, conducted awareness raising activities targeting the public, civil society, school children, and government officials.  In July 2022, despite pandemic-related travel restrictions, the AHTD sent an official by boat to Yap to conduct awareness raising activities.  The government continued to implement a policy requiring labor recruiters to register with the government before conducting recruitment; however, observers reported the government did not enforce the policy and Kosrae State government was wholly unaware of the policy.  The AHTD operated a trafficking hotline available in English and local languages; the government did not report initiating any trafficking investigations or identifying any victims from calls to the hotline.  Unlike the previous reporting period, the national government did not report funding a trafficking victim psychologist for the trafficking hotline.  The government did not report 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.  The government did not regulate recruitment fees, which contributed to debt-based coercion among foreign workers.  The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.  

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in FSM, and traffickers exploit victims from FSM abroad.  Fifty percent of workers work in the informal economy where labor laws are not enforced, increasing vulnerability to trafficking.  Traffickers, including family members, exploit Micronesian women and girls in sex trafficking through commercial sex with the crewmembers of docked Asian fishing vessels, crewmembers on vessels in FSM territorial waters, or foreign construction workers.  There are reports of children exploited in commercial sex facilitated by taxi drivers.  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 foreign migrant workers in labor trafficking, 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.  Climate-induced displacement significantly increases Micronesian nationals’ vulnerability — particularly those living on low-lying outer islands — to trafficking due to a loss of livelihood, shelter, or family stability.

U.S. Department of State

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