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For the fourth year in a row, the US State Department has ranked efforts by the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) to combat the despicable crime of human trafficking as better but still plenty of room for improvement.
In 2011 the State Department said the FSM was essentially doing next to nothing to combat the crime that strips human beings of control of their lives through coercion by another human being who profits from their misery. During that year the FSM was ranked at the lowest level it had ever “achieved” on Human Trafficking law enforcement measures. In 2012 and 2013, the State Department figured that the FSM had made modest gains in combatting the crime and ranked them at Tier 2 watch list.
In 2014 the US State Department evaluated FSM’s efforts on eliminating human trafficking at Tier 2, the second highest level and the FSM remained at that level for each of the next four annual Trafficking in Persons reports.
“The Government of the Federated States of Micronesia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, FSM remained on Tier 2,” the report said.
Specifically it said that government had increased the number of investigations into alleged trafficking cases which led to the conviction of one offender. It also had strengthened its efforts to raise trafficking awareness among law enforcement and government officials. It established new mechanisms—including the creation of an anti-trafficking coordinator position—to oversee government anti-trafficking work.
Despite the increase in efforts there is still room for improvement in key areas. In the case of the one convicted trafficker, the courts allowed the individual to pay restitution and repatriation in lieu of a prison sentence. It claims that authorities did not follow and establish procedure to identify victims among vulnerable populations or refer them to protective services, which remained undeveloped and under-resourced.
FSM and some State law enforcement entities did attempt to prosecute several alleged human traffickers but some of those efforts were unsuccessful.
“The government did not allocate any funding for protective services or establish shelters dedicated to trafficking victims. Authorities reported providing physical security and psychological counseling to an unspecified number of trafficking victims during the reporting period,” the report said. “Although there were no reports of victims punished for crimes committed as a direct result of having been subjected to trafficking, some potential victims may have been detained due to a lack of formal victim identification procedures.”
“In January 2017, the government opened an office dedicated to anti-trafficking efforts under the direction of a newly appointed coordinator and staffed by two investigators; the office opened too late in the reporting period to generate any notable progress,” it said.
“Local authorities claim many sex trafficking cases are unreported due to social stigma and victims’ fear of possible repercussions in their home communities. Foreign migrants from Southeast Asian countries report working in conditions indicative of human trafficking on Asian fishing vessels in FSM or its territorial waters.”
From the State Department’s narrative on the report, it appears that there were a number of activities that were begun too late during the reporting period for the report to have yet had any real impact on the anti-human trafficking efforts. At the end of the reporting period there were two criminal cases that were awaiting trial dates. Two of the States were still in process of establishing anti-human trafficking task forces.
SOURCE: KASELELHIE PRESS/PACNEWS
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