Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 July 2014, 15:15 GMT

2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Tonga

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 27 June 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Tonga, 27 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e12ee3e32.html [accessed 31 July 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 source and destination country for women and children subjected to sex trafficking within the country and a source country for women subjected to forced labor abroad. Foreign women and local children are prostituted in bars and entertainment establishments; 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. Crew members on foreign fishing vessels in Tonga or in its territorial waters exploit prostituted children on board their vessels. There were suspected cases of Tongan nationals who were recruited for domestic work abroad, but subsequently had their passports confiscated and were forced to work with no pay.

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 investigated and prosecuted its first case of trafficking involving two Chinese victims of forced prostitution, and provided these victims with some limited services. Nevertheless, the government did not take steps to proactively identify other victims of trafficking or educate the public about human trafficking.

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; train 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; and develop and conduct anti-trafficking information and education campaigns.

Prosecution

The Government of Tonga made limited efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenders during the reporting period. 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 and which prescribes penalties of up to 25 years' imprisonment for these offenses. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government acknowledged that trafficking occurs in Tonga and reported investigating and prosecuting its first ever trafficking case during the year. In early 2011, the government prosecuted a Chinese national for forcing two other Chinese nationals into prostitution after recruiting them from China to work in her bar and restaurant business in Tonga in 2009. The victims paid their trafficker $6,000 in recruitment and transportation costs. The government funded Chinese interpreters for the case. Sentencing of the convicted offender was expected in April 2011. Corruption is a known problem in Tonga, though the government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, convictions, or punishments of officials for complicity in human trafficking through corrupt practices during the reporting period. The government did not provide training to law enforcement and court personnel on trafficking awareness or how to identify trafficking victims or investigate trafficking cases.

Protection

The Government of Tonga made modest efforts to ensure trafficking victims' access to protective services during the year despite limited resources. Law enforcement and social services personnel did not demonstrate efforts to proactively identifying victims of trafficking among vulnerable populations, but reported their use of a referral form used to direct general victims of crime to NGO assistance-providers. Authorities did not proactively identify any victims during the reporting period. Two victims identified themselves to authorities and were subsequently provided with medical assistance and police protection during their trafficker's trial. The victims were forced into prostitution in Tonga, and also were forced into labor at the trafficker's restaurant. Although the victims expressed a desire to pursue civil charges against their trafficker, they were not provided access to legal assistance to do so. The government offered to refer identified victims to NGO shelter and counseling services. Authorities did not punish identified victims for crimes committed as a direct result of being trafficked, such as immigration offenses. The Immigration Department assisted one victim who had overstayed her visa, and did not penalize her. However, the victim was not offered a work visa that would allow her to work for the duration of the trial or longer. The government did not yet provide victims with longer-term shelter or residency benefits in Tonga. The government did not offer legal alternatives to the removal of foreign trafficking victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution.

Prevention

The government of Tonga made no discernible efforts to prevent human trafficking during the reporting period, such as through raising public awareness of the dangers of trafficking. The government did not provide any training for government or law enforcement officials on how to recognize, investigate, and prosecute instances of trafficking. It 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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