Palau remains on Tier Two of Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report 2019 which was released on Thursday last week by the US Department of State.

According to the report, the Palauan government has made significant effort to tackle the problem of human trafficking in the country. However, it has failed to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of the problem.

The last analysis was done in the year 2017 by the U.S. Department of State which put Palau under Tier Two. The 2017 report had also suggested protective services for the trafficked victims such as government funded victims’ shelter.

The 2019 report acknowledges the steps taken by the government since 2017 which include a national action plan, funding an assessment of the trafficking situation in Palau and the government’s anti-trafficking infrastructure, creating a temporary shelter for victims, and establishing a trafficking hotline.

However, the shortcomings of the authorities is instantly pointed out in the report, “Protection services were insufficient; the government did not provide basic services such as medical and psychological care, and the government did not investigate indicators of trafficking in labor recruitment and contract violations experienced by many foreign workers.” The 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report reads.

Island Times attempted reaching out to Anti-Human Trafficking Office coordinator Jennifer Anson for follow up questions on the recent report but an employee at to Anti-Human Trafficking Office said that she is currently off island.

The report makes a significant note that authorities investigated government officials including labor, immigration, law enforcement and elected officials for facilitating trafficking. However, as Anson is currently off island and hence couldn’t respond to the follow up questions, details of these investigations are currently not revealed.

The report has suggested an increase in resources to develop victim protection and rehabilitation services which includes long-term shelter options and rehabilitation services. It also suggests that trafficked victims shouldn’t be prosecuted for the crimes they may have been compelled to do by the traffickers.

It stated the short-comings of the judicial system by adding, “While the 2005 Anti-Smuggling and Trafficking Act granted victims immunity from prosecution for the “act of people trafficking,” the vague language permitted prosecution for unlawful acts the trafficker compelled the victim to commit, such as prostitution or petty crime.”

The criticism of the report also extended to the Attorney Generals Office by stating that AGO did not request restitution for trafficking victims, reportedly due to an inability to submit admissible evidence. (Eshan Kalyanikar)