By Bernadette H. Carreon

Palau officials are aiming to be placed under the Tier 1 ranking under the US State Department next round of Trafficking in Persons Report, vowing to continue its fight in the elimination of human trafficking.

Although in the 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report, Palau kept its Tier 2 ranking, the US State Department lauded the country’s efforts in tackling human trafficking.

“We can look forward to that day we are taken off the Tier 2 ranking,” President Tommy Remengesau Jr. told reporters during his press conference on Wednesday.

The president said the US’s recognition of Palau’s undertaking to investigate and prosecute human trafficking signifies that the government is taking stringent steps to put an end to trafficking.

In last week’s report, Palau is lauded for its efforts on” investigations, prosecutions, and convictions of trafficking crimes, including complicit officials; identifying more victims; and funding a regional NGO providing legal services to several trafficking victims.”

Palau has remained on Tier 2 because it still to fully meet the US’ Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.

Vice President and Minister of Justice Raynold Oilouch said the task force, which he heads, will find ways to implement the recommendations made by the US Department to meet the standards.

“I have two goals, one is to improve and solve any human trafficking issue and number 2 is to change Palau’s ranking from Tier 2 to Tier 1,” Oilouch told reporters yesterday.

Tier 1 is the highest designation given to a country after meeting the minimum standards of TVPA.

Oilouch said with the establishment of a human trafficking office, Palau is already providing a safe house to the victims.

He also said he will call on the courts to take human trafficking as a serious crime by issuing harsher penalties against persons convicted of human trafficking.

The report also noted that the Palau government is lacking in providing or funding emergency protective services such as shelter, medical, or psychological care. There was also a lack of proactive victim identification and referral protocols, it added.

The report recommended that Palau should increase efforts to investigate and criminally prosecute trafficking offenses, convict sex, and labor traffickers, and impose strong penalties on convicted traffickers—including complicit officials that are likely to deter future offenses.

Oilouch said his office would also seek technical assistance to better train officers in identifying and handling human trafficking cases.

He also stressed that his office will apply the law equally to everyone – Palauans or Non-Palauans – in order to eliminate human trafficking.