[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

PALAU (Tier 2)   [Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]

Palau is a transit and destination country for a small number of women trafficked from the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) for purpose of commercial exploitation, and for a small number of men from the Philippines, the PRC and Bangladesh for the purpose of forced labor. Some employers recruit foreign men and women to work in Palau through fraudulent representation of contract terms and conditions of employment. These foreign workers willingly migrate to Palau for jobs in domestic service, agriculture, or construction, but are subsequently coerced to work in situations significantly different than what their contracts stipulated – excessive hours without pay, confiscation of their travel documents, and the withholding of salary payments as a means of controlling their movement; these conditions may be indicative of involuntary servitude. Some workers are also threatened by their employers, and some women expecting to work as waitresses or clerks, are forced into commercial sexual exploitation in karaoke bars and massage parlors. Since the late 1990s, the Philippines government banned its nationals from migrating to Palau to serve as domestic workers.

The Government of Palau does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting period, the government continued its law enforcement and prosecution efforts against trafficking offenders. Victim services and efforts to raise public awareness of human trafficking, however, remained limited.

Recommendations for Palau: Increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and punish trafficking offenders; monitor employment agents recruiting foreign men and women for work in Palau to prevent trafficking for labor exploitation; establish formal procedures to identify and refer trafficking victims to protective services; work with NGOs or international organizations, as appropriate, to provide additional services to victims; and develop and conduct anti-trafficking information and education campaigns.

The Government of Palau made minor progress in its law enforcement and prosecution efforts against trafficking offenders during the reporting period. The Anti-Smuggling and Trafficking Act of 2005 prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons. Its sufficiently stringent penalties, ranging from ten to 50 years’ imprisonment and fines up to $500,000, are commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Despite limited resources and a relatively small number of victims, Palau prosecuted and convicted four trafficking offenders in 2007. These traffickers had forced 15 Filipinas and nine Chinese waitresses into commercial sexual exploitation and subjected them to food deprivation, confinement, and illegal salary deductions. One of the traffickers appealed his conviction in 2008. In February 2009, the conviction was reversed and the case against the trafficker was dismissed without prejudice, meaning it can be refiled. There were no other investigations, prosecutions, or convictions during the reporting period. The government did not train law enforcement officers to proactively identify victims or to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as foreign women in prostitution.

The government of Palau offered minimal protective services to victims of trafficking over the reporting period. No long-term protective services were available to victims, and Palauan government agencies did not employ formal procedures to identify and refer trafficking victims for the services which were available. The government did not identify or assist any victims of trafficking during the year although it has done so in the past. A religious organization provided limited assistance to victims of any crime. In the past, its services were available to trafficking victims and would be made available again, as needed. Palauan law does not penalize victims for illegal acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked, and encourages victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenders. The government does not remove victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution. In 2007, Filipina and Chinese victims were offered the choice of remaining in Palau and seeking different employment or returning home.

The government made no discernable efforts to prevent human trafficking through planned campaigns to educate the public about its dangers, but publicized its anti-trafficking activities at least twice during the year. Government agencies cooperated with each other, with foreign governments, and with international organizations on trafficking matters. No detailed information about Palau’s national plan to address trafficking was available at the time of this Report’s drafting. Palau Customs, Immigration and Police have formed a four-person training team which has created an identity crime training program for government employees, to help them recognize false documents which might be used by traffickers. Palau also improved its immigration controls, in part to deter trafficking in persons, in accordance with its participation in the Pacific Regional Immigration Identity Project and the Pacific Immigration Directors Conference. The government made no discernable efforts to address the demand for commercial sex acts or the demand for forced labor during the reporting period. Palau has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.