Last Updated: Friday, 19 September 2014, 13:55 GMT

Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - Special Cases - Palau

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Publication Date 4 June 2008
Cite as United States Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - Special Cases - Palau, 4 June 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/484f9a4e37.html [accessed 20 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Limited data suggests the existence of a trafficking problem in Palau involving foreign women trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation and male and female migrant workers who may face involuntary servitude upon arrival in Palau. Palau is included as a Special Case due to the lack of reliable statistical information – from either the government or international organizations – regarding trafficking incidents to date. In part due to its small population, Palau's trafficking problem may be of small scale. However, there are indications that there is a trafficking problem.

Scope and Magnitude. Foreign women from the Philippines and the People's Republic of China (P.R.C.) reportedly were trafficked to Palau for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation in karaoke bars. Several Filipinas were recruited to work as waitresses in Palau, but were trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation. Men and women from the Philippines, P.R.C., and Bangladesh migrate willingly to Palau to work as domestics, in agriculture, or in construction, but after arrival many face conditions of involuntary servitude. Some foreign workers, particularly domestics and unskilled laborers, were forced to accept jobs different from those for which they were recruited. Employers sometimes verbally threatened or withheld passports and return tickets of foreign workers desiring to change jobs. Non-citizens are officially excluded from the minimum wage law, making them vulnerable to involuntary servitude.

Government Efforts. The Government of Palau prohibits trafficking in persons, with penalties ranging from ten to 50 years' imprisonment and fines of up to $500,000. Palau also has laws against slavery, fraud, and prostitution. In May 2007, a Chinese couple, two Filipinas and a Palauan businesswoman were convicted of trafficking for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. This was Palau's first use of the 2005 anti-trafficking legislation. The group operated a restaurant/karaoke bar and employed 15 Filipinas and nine Chinese waitresses who were forced into commercial sexual exploitation and subjected to food deprivation, confinement, and illegal salary deductions. The Chinese couple was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment, fined $50,000, and ordered to pay $18,000 in restitution and airfare to repatriate the victims. One Filipina was sentenced to three years in prison and fined $5,000; the other was sentenced to one year in prison and fined $5,000. All are subject to deportation after serving a third of their terms and paying all fines. The Palauan businesswoman, in a plea agreement, had her 15-year prison term dismissed, had her $100,000 fine reduced to $20,000, and was ordered to pay $15,000 in restitution.

The Immigration and Labor Ministries and the Office of the Attorney General are responsible for combating trafficking; however, the government lacked resources to address the problem. Moreover, the government does not have a formal procedure to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups such as women arrested for prostitution. The government encourages victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking. Ten of the 24 female victims in the aforementioned case cooperated closely with the Office of the Attorney General. There was no formal assistance available for victims, and some victims were penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being trafficked, such as prostitution violations. However, in the case of the Filipina waitresses, the victims were offered the option of remaining in Palau and seeking different employment or returning home.

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