"Today, it is estimated as many as 27 million people around the world are victims of modern slavery, what we sometimes call trafficking in persons," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, at the unveiling of the 2012 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report in Washington, D.C., on June 19.
The report ranks 186 countries for compliance to the minimum standards for eliminating trafficking. For the second year, the Republic of the Marshall Islands received a Tier 2 ranking, indicating the the country is not yet compliant, but making significant efforts to come into compliance.
About one-half of the countries ranked on Tier 2. There were 42 countries ranked on the Tier 2 watch List, meaning they were in danger of falling down to Tier 3 List. The report found 17 countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so
The Marshall Islands first appeared on the country list in Summer 2011. In September 2011, the RMI enacted its first legislation prohibiting trafficking in persons, and the Pacific nation was was able to prosecute two cases during the year. Convictions were obtained "Chinese traffickers who lured women to the RMI from China with the promise of legitimate employment and subsequently forced them into prostitution."
The 2012 report found fault with the sentences imposed on the convicted traffickers in the Marshall Islands. The first, receiving only a one-year house arrest and a fine, was allowed to leave the country to visit family. The second offender, had four years of her five-year house-arrest sentence suspended.
"Negligible efforts" were made by the Marshall Islands government to prevent trafficking and provide protection services for victims. Awareness training and guidelines for officials was recommended.
The newest analysis also referred to a situation in the RMI of "attempted political interference in the investigation and prosecution of the trafficking cases" which was noted in last year's report.
2012 recommendations included applying "stringent sentences to convicted offenders" and taking "steps to prosecute public officials when there is evidence they are complicit in trafficking activities or hindering ongoing trafficking prosecutions."
Luis CdeBaca, Ambassador-at-Large, Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, in the report briefing, explained that human trafficking is not criminal movement across borders for purposes prostitution, although that is often how people see it.
Trafficking is defined as slavery under U.S. and UN protocols. "It doesn’t matter if someone is in their own country; it doesn’t matter if they’re in sex or if they’re in labor. If the person is not free to leave, if the person is unable to go get another position and is being held through some type of coercive force, that person is considered a trafficking victim, and that person is entitled to the protections that we look to governments to provide," said CdeBaca.
Data for the annual reports are gathered from NGOs submissions to governments, from US overseas diplomatic missions, and the investigations of the State Department's Trafficking in Persons office.
- Aenet Rowa, Yokwe Online, July 3, 2012