Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 December 2014, 20:05 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Tonga

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Tonga, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30c8b5.html [accessed 18 December 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.

TONGA (Tier 2)

Tonga is a destination country for women subjected to sex trafficking and is, to a lesser extent, a source country for women and children subjected to domestic sex trafficking and domestic and international forced labor. East Asian women, especially women from China, are prostituted in illegal clandestine establishments operating with legitimate front businesses; some East Asian women are recruited from their home countries for legitimate work in Tonga, paying large sums of money in recruitment fees, and upon arrival are forced into prostitution. Some children are subject to forced labor and sexual exploitation in private residences.

The Government of Tonga 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 acknowledged human trafficking as an issue of concern and in conjunction with the U.S. government, organized a training program on combating trafficking in persons. Nevertheless, the government did not develop or conduct anti-trafficking education campaigns.

Recommendations for Tonga: Publicly recognize, investigate, prosecute, and punish incidences of child sex trafficking; enact a law or establish a policy that provides for explicit protections for victims of trafficking, such as restitution, benefits, and immigration relief; criminalize the confiscation of travel documents as a means of obtaining or maintaining someone in compelled service; increase training for officials on human trafficking and how to identify and assist trafficking victims; continue efforts to investigate, prosecute, and punish trafficking offenders; work with NGOs or international organizations to provide legal assistance to victims of trafficking and greater victim protection resources; adopt proactive procedures to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups; develop and conduct anti-trafficking information and education campaigns; create an interagency process to address anti-human trafficking efforts; develop a national action plan for countering trafficking in persons; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

Prosecution

The Government of Tonga, despite limited resources, made modest progress in its law enforcement efforts to address human trafficking. Tonga prohibits all forms of human trafficking through its Revised Transnational Crimes Act of 2007, which defines human trafficking as including forced labor and forced prostitution. This law prescribes up to 25 years' imprisonment for these offenses, which is sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape. In April 2011, the government, for the first time, sentenced a trafficking offender to prison. Following her prosecution and conviction during the previous reporting period for the forced prostitution of two Chinese nationals into prostitution, the trafficker was sentenced to 10 years in prison. In September of 2011, the government co-hosted, with the U.S. government, a one-day seminar focused on identification of human trafficking offenses and protection of victims; the training was held in Nuku'alofa, Tonga for 39 individuals, including public prosecutors; police; officials from immigration, customs, the National Reserve Bank, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and local NGOs. Corruption is a known problem in Tonga. However, the government did not report any allegations, investigations, prosecutions, convictions, or punishments of officials for complicity in human trafficking through corrupt practices during the reporting period.

Protection

The Government of Tonga made modest progress in identifying trafficking victims or ensuring their access to protective services during the year. The government did not develop or employ systematic procedures for the identification of trafficking victims among at-risk groups such as undocumented migrants or women in prostitution, and no victims were identified during the reporting period. It did not offer care services to potential victims of trafficking, though it continued to refer general victims of crime to NGO providers of victim services. The government provided a total equivalent to $37,000 in funding from its national budget to two local NGOs during the reporting period for operations related to assisting women and children victims of crime.

Under the government's Immigration Act, the Principal Immigration Officer holds broad discretionary authority in granting human trafficking victims permits to stay in the country for any length of time the officer deems it necessary for the protection of victims. The two victims from Tonga's first human trafficking case currently remain in the country on temporary permits and are being assisted by the police in their applications for longer term permits to stay in Tonga. Additionally, human trafficking victims can be granted asylum in Tonga if they fear retribution or hardship in their country of origin, though no human trafficking victim has ever requested asylum.

Prevention

The government of Tonga made limited efforts to prevent human trafficking during the reporting period. In September, the government trained 39 government officials to identify trafficking victims. The government also provided immigration officials with cards listing trafficking in persons indicators to help identify proactively victims of human trafficking traveling in and out of the country. The government did not take action to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor during the reporting period. Tonga is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

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