By Bernadette H. Carreon

The US State Department has lauded the efforts of Palau in establishing a trafficking task force to combat human trafficking here but the country keeps its Tier 2 with the government still not fully meeting the minimum standard for elimination of trafficking.

In the newly released 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report, Palau received recognition for reporting 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.”

But still the efforts are not enough for Palau to move up to Tier 1- the best designation given to countries battling human trafficking. Palau has remain on Tier 2 for years because the report stressed the government still fail did not meet minimum standards in several key areas.

It said the Palau courts issued light penalties against those charged with human trafficking.

The government is also 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.

In October, through President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr.’s executive order, a task force was established  to recommend and implement a plan of action to combat human trafficking on the island.

Vice President and Minister of Justice Raynold B. Oilouch then created the Anti-Human Trafficking Office to strengthen the government’s effort in addressing the issues that lead to human trafficking.

The anti-human trafficking office was appropriated an initial funding of USD$100,000.

The report recommended that Palau 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.

It also recommended that the country institute and implement victim identification and referral protocols, standard operating procedures, and training for law enforcement officers to identify and protect trafficking victims in vulnerable groups.

Palau is also urged to establish witness confidentiality procedures; implement the anti-trafficking hotline; increase anti-trafficking awareness among vulnerable populations, and labor migrant communities.

Victims should also be supported through the use funds obtained from asset seizure  or fines imposed on convicted traffickers.

The government should not penalize trafficking victims for illegal acts committed as a result of being subjected to human trafficking.

Palau is also urged to enforce the anti-trafficking laws by punishing recruiters, employment  agents, and labor officials for illegal practices that facilitate trafficking.