Last Updated: Thursday, 17 April 2014, 13:11 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Palau

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Palau, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30ca237.html [accessed 17 April 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.

PALAU (Tier 2)

Palau is a destination country for women subjected to sex trafficking and for women and men subjected to forced labor. Some men and women reportedly are recruited for legitimate work from their home countries through fraudulent representation of contracts and conditions of employment. Excessive hours without pay, threats of physical or financial harm, confiscation of travel documents, and the withholding of salary payments are used as tools of coercion to obtain and maintain their compelled service. Palau's foreign population, including workers and dependents, is estimated at 6,000 – nearly one-third of the county's population of 20,000 – with the majority hailing from the Philippines, China, and Bangladesh. Some men and women from the Philippines, China, and Bangladesh pay thousands of dollars in recruitment fees and willingly migrate to Palau for jobs in domestic service, agriculture, restaurants, or construction, although upon arrival are forced to work in conditions substantially different than what was presented in contracts or recruitment offers. Women from China and the Philippines migrate to Palau expecting to work as waitresses or clerks, but subsequently are forced into prostitution in karaoke bars and massage parlors. Recent reports indicate that some Indonesian men who voluntarily migrate to Palau for work on fishing boats face fraudulent recruitment, altered working conditions, and the withholding of salaries. Noncitizens are officially excluded from the minimum wage law, and regulations make it extremely difficult for foreign workers to change employers once they arrive in Palau, consequently increasing their vulnerability to involuntary servitude and debt bondage.

The Government of Palau does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the year, the government investigated several cases of forced labor and assisted victims in obtaining new employment and housing. However, it failed to provide any training for law enforcement officials on how to recognize, investigate, and prosecute instances of trafficking.

Recommendations for Palau: Continue efforts to proactively investigate, prosecute, and punish trafficking offenders; continue publicly to highlight the issue and to recognize and condemn incidences of trafficking; increase resources devoted to address anti-trafficking efforts; prohibit the confiscation of identity documents of foreign workers; develop a national plan of action to combat human trafficking; continue to make vigorous efforts to combat corruption by officials involved in regulating the immigration and employment of foreign workers; monitor employment agents recruiting foreign men and women for work in Palau for compliance with existing labor laws to prevent their facilitation of trafficking; establish formal procedures for front-line officers to identify and refer trafficking victims to protective services; continue to develop and implement anti-trafficking information and education campaigns; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

Prosecution

The Government of Palau demonstrated increased law enforcement efforts to address human trafficking during the year. Palau's Anti-Smuggling and Trafficking Act of 2005 prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons and prescribes sufficiently stringent penalties for these offenses, ranging from 10 to 50 years' imprisonment and fines of up to $500,000; these are commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government reported investigating four suspected trafficking cases, one of which remains ongoing and involves the forced labor of a Filipina domestic worker. Two other investigations were completed and determined not to be human trafficking. Investigation of the fourth case was not completed because the victims – three Indonesian fishermen subjected to exploitation on a fishing boat – returned to Indonesia before they could be further interviewed.

The government did not train law enforcement officers to proactively identify and assist victims or to identify victims among vulnerable populations, such as foreign workers or foreign women in prostitution. During the reporting period, the former director of the Bureau of Immigration was charged with participating in a scheme to assist irregular migrants in avoiding standard immigration procedures, but the case was dropped due to insufficient evidence. The former chief of the Division of Labor, also charged in the scheme, was convicted and sentenced in July 2011 for violation of the code of ethics; he was placed under probation and ordered to pay a $2,500 fine while his three-year sentence was suspended.

Protection

The Government of Palau made modest efforts to identify and protect victims of trafficking during the reporting period. With the help of the Department of Labor, victims in ongoing trafficking investigations – specifically the three Indonesian fishermen involved in one of the four reported investigations of suspected human trafficking – obtained new employment. The government sustained partnerships with local churches to offer shelter, food, and housing to potential trafficking victims; however, no victims were assisted through these partnerships during the year. While the government did not have a policy of identifying and referring trafficking victims to legal services, the Attorney General's Office has increased its efforts to encourage victims' participation in investigations and prosecutions by holding counseling sessions to address victims' trauma and reduce their possible fear of reprisals from traffickers.

Prevention

The Government of Palau sustained its efforts to prevent human trafficking during the reporting period. In January 2012, the government held an interagency meeting, titled "Universal Periodic Review – Human Rights," which focused on the government's efforts to address human trafficking, including heightening public awareness and undertaking investigations. During the reporting period, the government appointed an ombudsman dedicated to labor issues and trafficking in persons. It also forged an effective relationship with the Philippines embassy in which the embassy identified employers involved in labor abuses and tracked egregious or "repeat" offenders who had used illegal recruiters, repeatedly engaged in some form of labor or contract abuse, or refused to make an appropriate settlement. The Philippines Embassy regularly and formally notified the Palau government by diplomatic note when it added an employer to the blacklist. At least 11 Palauan citizens are currently blacklisted, including a serving senator and an owner of one of Palau's two newspapers. In addition, administrative as well as legal action is taken against employers suspected of labor abuses, including sanctions by the Bureau of Labor and Human Resources against the recruitment of new workers. A draft bill to prohibit restrictions on the movement of foreign workers was submitted to Palau's Congress for approval. The government did not provide any training for law enforcement officials on how to recognize, investigate, and prosecute instances of trafficking. The government made no discernible effort to address the demand for commercial sex acts or the demand for forced labor during the reporting period. Palau is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

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