An anti-human trafficking office has been set up to deal with human trafficking issue and complaints in Palau.

Attorney General Ernestine Rengiil said the office would also serve as temporary safe house for victims of human trafficking.

In 2017, a task force lead by Vice President Raynold Oilouch was formed to fight human trafficking in the country.

The task force duty will be to recommend a plan of action to combat human trafficking.

Rengiil said ongoing investigations are being conducted against alleged human trafficking cases with several cases already filed.

Rengiil told senators in a public hearing Tuesday that Palau wants to improve its status in United States Trafficking of Persons report from Tier 2 to Tier 1.

Tier 2 rating is given to countries whose governments do not fully meet the reports’ minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.

In earlier interviews, Oilouch said Palau wants its status upgraded from Tier 2 to Tier 1 by taking a more aggressive approach towards human trafficking.

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;

In the 2017 Trafficking in persons report, Palau is categorized as “a destination country for women subjected to sex trafficking and for women and men subjected to forced labor.”

The report added that Palau’s foreign worker population is the most vulnerable to trafficking.

It also noted that the Palau government “maintained limited efforts to identify and protect victims.”

The government also did not fund or provide any additional protective services for victims, nor did it report whether any victims received shelter or support from other entities.

However Oilouch said part of the task force duties is also to identify shelter for victims.  (Bernadette Carreon)