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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i


Marshall Islands Declared Sex-Trafficking Destination
Government allegedly took no effort to prevent trafficking in 2013

By Giff Johnson

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, July 19, 2013) – The U.S. State Department has red-flagged the Marshall Islands as a sex-trafficking destination, and put the country on a global "watch list."

In last year’s State Department Trafficking in Persons Report, the Marshall Islands was listed as a "Tier 2" country, the middle designation in a report that lists countries as Tier 1, 2 and 3.

The 2013 report, which was cited in the Marshall Islands Journal Thursday this week, states: "The Republic of the Marshall Island is a destination country for women from East Asia subjected to sex trafficking," the report states bluntly, adding: "The government has made no effort to prevent trafficking during the year. It did not conduct any public campaigns or take other steps to raise public awareness about the dangers of trafficking."

The report goes on to state all the things that it says the Marshall Islands government did not do this past year to curtail human trafficking.

"The government has not made an effort to identify victims proactively, especially among vulnerable populations, such as foreign and local women in prostitution and foreign men on fishing vessels in Marshallese waters," the report said.

"The Marshall Islands government made no effort to identify trafficking victims or ensure their access to protective services during the year. Law enforcement and social services personnel do not employ systematic procedures to identify victims of trafficking proactively among high-risk populations with whom they come in contact, which is a risk factor for victims being punished for acts committed as a result of being trafficked."

The State Department report urges the government to:

  • Train law enforcement and judicial officials to implement new anti-trafficking laws.
  • Increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and punish trafficking offenders and apply stringent sentences to convicted offenders.
  • Take steps to prosecute public officials when there is evidence they are complicit in trafficking activities or hindering ongoing trafficking prosecutions.
  • Work with NGOs and international organizations to provide protective services to victims.
  • Make an effort to study human trafficking in the country.
  • Adopt proactive procedures to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups, such as foreign workers and women in prostitution.
  • Develop and conduct anti-trafficking information and education campaigns.
  • Accede to the 2000 United Nations Trafficking in Persons Protocol.

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