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

2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Palau

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 27 June 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Palau, 27 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e12ee565.html [accessed 22 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.

Palau (Tier 2)

Palau is a destination country for women from countries in the Asia-Pacific region who are subjected to forced prostitution and people from the Philippines, China, and Bangladesh who are subjected to conditions of forced labor. The foreign population including workers and dependents is an estimated 5,000 – more than one-third of the county's population of 14,000 – with the majority from the Philippines, China, and Bangladesh. Some reports indicate that employers recruit foreign men and women to work in Palau through fraudulent representation of contract terms and conditions of employment. Some foreign workers pay thousands of dollars in recruitment fees and willingly migrate to Palau for jobs in domestic service, agriculture, or construction but are subsequently coerced to work in situations significantly different than what their contracts stipulated. Excessive hours without pay, threats of physical or financial harm, confiscation of their travel documents, and the withholding of salary payments are used as tools of coercion to obtain and maintain their compelled service. Some women from China and the Philippines migrate to Palau expecting to work as waitresses or clerks, but are subsequently forced into prostitution in karaoke bars and massage parlors. Non-citizens are officially excluded from the minimum wage law, and new regulations make it extremely difficult for foreign workers to change employers, 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. The government has a comprehensive anti-trafficking law, though it did not investigate or prosecute any trafficking cases during the year, including neither of two reported trafficking cases brought to their attention, one for the forced labor of a Filipina domestic worker, and one for the forced prostitution of several Filipina women recruited for waitressing. In the past, the government worked with the local Catholic Church to offer victim protection services, but did not assist any victims through this mechanism during the reporting period year. The government made some efforts to raise awareness of or prevent trafficking during the year.

Recommendations for Palau: Continue publicly to highlight the issue and to recognize and condemn incidences of trafficking; significantly increase efforts to proactively investigate, prosecute, and punish trafficking offenders; 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 the exploitation 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; forge effective partnerships with local or regional NGOs or international organizations to provide additional services to victims; and continue to develop and implement anti-trafficking information and education campaigns.

Prosecution

The Government of Palau did not report any efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict trafficking offenders during the reporting period. 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 up to $500,000; these are commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government did not report investigating, prosecuting, or convicting any offenders of trafficking during the year, despite a case of forced prostitution that was brought to the attention of senior officials. The government again failed to investigate allegations of labor recruiters, facilitators, and employers involved in the recruitment and exploitation of foreign trafficking victims. 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.

There were reports of corruption among labor officials related to the regulation and permits of foreign workers. As cited during the previous reporting period, two government officials were charged with corruption in 2009. Both individuals allegedly participated in a scheme to assist irregular migrants in avoiding standard immigration procedures; these migrants were from populations which had been identified as trafficking victims in Palau in the past. In April 2011, one of these two officials, the former Chief of the Division of Labor, pled guilty to misconduct in office and a violation of the Code of Ethics; he was sentenced to three years' probation for the charge of misconduct in office; the sentencing hearing on charges for the violation of the Code of Ethics had not yet taken place as of the date of publication. The prosecution of the other individual charged in 2009, the former Director of the Bureau of Immigration, is still before the court.

Protection

The Government of Palau made inadequate efforts to identify and protect victims of trafficking during the reporting period. The government did not develop or implement a formal system of proactively identifying victims of trafficking among high-risk persons with whom they come in contact and referring victims to available services; they did not proactively identify any victims during the reporting period. The government worked with the local Catholic Church to offer victim protections including shelter, food, and housing to trafficking victims; however, no victims were assisted through this mechanism during the year. The government did not have any formal or informal arrangements or mechanisms in place to provide trafficking victims with access to legal or psychological services, and had no plans to develop the capacity to do so. Two Filipina victims who were recruited for waitressing and subsequently forced into prostitution came forward and were brought to the attention of authorities, who worked with the Philippines Embassy to repatriate the victims to the Philippines; the government provided health services to the victims, but did not provide shelter, counseling, legal, or any other assistance to the victims. The government did not encourage the victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers, nor did it provide legal alternatives to the removal of victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution. The Palau government did not make efforts to identify international organizations or community groups to provide assistance to victims of trafficking.

Prevention

The government made some efforts to prevent human trafficking through public awareness efforts during the year. Palau's president made public statements against human trafficking that were widely covered in the media. In April 2011, the President established an anti-trafficking task force to examine the trafficking problem, and develop recommendations for fighting trafficking in Palau. During the year, Palau hosted two human rights forums that included human trafficking. In response to public complaints of foreign workers changing employers, the government passed a new law to restrict foreign workers in Palau from changing employers, except under three circumstances – if their employer died, if the company they were employed at dissolved, or if the worker left Palau for a duration of five years and returned. This law, combined with a lack of labor rights for foreign workers, increased the vulnerability of foreign workers to involuntary servitude and debt bondage. A draft bill to end the restrictions on foreign labor movement is currently being considered for congressional approval. The government did not provide any training for government or law enforcement officials on how to recognize, investigate, and prosecute instances of trafficking. The government made no discernible efforts 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.

Search Refworld

Countries