Slider
Slider

|

Slider

US report uncovers anti-trafficking challenges in Palau

Regional News
Typography
  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

KOROR (Island Times/Pacnews) — The Trafficking in Persons Report released by the U.S Department of State in June identified the challenges that limit Palau’s anti-trafficking efforts, including official complicity, a lack of convictions, and insufficient identification and protection services.

According to the U.S. Department of State, “as reported over the past five years, human trafficking of foreign victims occurs in Palau.”

 But according to Palau’s Office of the Attorney General, it currently has no open cases of human trafficking. For its part, the Anti-Human Trafficking Office or AHTO, which was established in 2018 under the Ministry of Justice, said not many cases  come to its attention. 

Jennifer Anson, executive director of AHTO, said despite limitations, her office continues to promote awareness of human trafficking in Palau.

She said the victim-identification tool used by AHTO, which the June report refers to as “developing...but not completed or approved,” has already been completed and implemented.

The tool consists of a questionnaire that aims to determine if someone is a victim of human trafficking, or suffering from abuse. It was sourced from the International Organization for Migration and tailored to fit Palau.

 The top challenge AHTO faces is lack of personnel, Anson said, adding that her office had two investigators at one point, but a recent reshuffling in the Ministry of Justice returned them to their old offices. She has one staff member right now — a victim’s advocate.

The MOJ, she said, is waiting for the next administration before making any personnel changes.

“I’m pretty much at a standstill right now,” Anson said. “I can still take complaints and refer people to the Labor Office and the police station... but as far as going out and investigating a potential case — it’s going on a month since my two investigators were returned to their normal duty stations.”

Regarding the “official complicity” mentioned in the U.S. Department of State report, Anson linked it to a case going back several years in which then-Attorney General Victoria Roe accused several officials of involvement in trafficking. The follow-up investigation was limited, and shortly after, Roe was asked to resign.

 For her part, Rebecca Sullivan, a prosecutor of the AG’s office, said:  “A lot of the trafficking here is labor-trafficking, and particularly since the virus hit, people want any job. The laws of Palau define trafficking as [any case] where you are being paid less than what is the legal rate, or if you’ve been promised one job and you come here and you’re in another job and your salary’s half what you agreed to. But a lot of people still want to keep those jobs, so a lot of people don’t go to the authorities.”

Sullivan said in the three filed cases of trafficking since she began working for the AG’s office, two of the alleged victims backed out before the case was brought to trial, and one case was brought to trial, but the alleged victim lost.

Sullivan said an “ongoing unawareness” is a potential factor in unreported trafficking cases.

“People who are wealthy may employ people from other countries for very low wages,” she said. “That’s been a historic trend, which maybe doesn’t seem like trafficking, but under these laws it is.”

previous arrow
next arrow
Shadow
Slider

Read more articles

Visit our Facebook Page

previous arrow
next arrow
Shadow
Slider