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AmSam believed ‘transit and destination” for trafficking

fili@samoanews.com

The U.S. Insular areas “are source, transit, and destination locations for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor, debt bondage, and sex trafficking.” according to the 2012 Human Trafficking report by the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Person.

The report says the territory of American Samoa, “is believed to be a transit and destination island for human trafficking.” However, in fiscal  2011, there were no new reported human trafficking cases, the report notes.

“The legislature in American Samoa did not pass a bill, introduced in October 2009, which would criminalize human trafficking as a felony offense,” the report says, referring to identical bills in both the Senate and the House, which remained pending in respective committees when the Fono ended in September of 2010, during the 31st Legislature.

Local Department of Homeland Security director Mike Sala had testified in both the Senate and the House in support of the measure, but proposed amendments to the bill targeted the protection of victims of human trafficking, described by the U.S. Government as mostly underground operations, making it difficult to determine the actual number of known victims.

Samoa News should point out that there have been a lot of unconfirmed reports of possible human trafficking through American Samoa from Asian countries over the years, but no charges were ever filed.

In January 2010, local law enforcement agents, supported by the local FBI office, executed a search warrant on the Immigration Office, seizing files and other immigration records of Asians entering the territory and the warrants were part of the local investigation into possible trafficking of Asian nationals to American Samoa through Samoa. No one was ever charged following this raid.

The one major case of human trafficking in American Samoa and the first on U.S. soil was the Daewoosa Samoa garment case with more than 200 Vietnamese workers — mostly females — as victims of human trafficking.

OTHER TERRITORIES AND U.S.

For Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the report says the two territories are a source, destination and transit for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.

In FY 2011, the report says the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged two men with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, who were financially benefitting from a sex trafficking venture, involving Chinese women in CNMI. There were no new cases reported in Guam in FY 2011.

The report does state that there have been human trafficking regional training conferences involving stake holders, local and federal officials for both territories.  The territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were also covered in the Insular Area report.

The United States, the report says, “is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children—both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals—subjected to forced labor, debt bondage, involuntary servitude, and sex trafficking.”

The State Department report also provided information on other world countries dealing with human trafficking. While the independent state of Samoa was not cited in the report but two other neighbors—Fiji and Tonga— are cited in the report and placed on ‘Tier 2’.

“Fiji is a source country for children subjected to internal sex trafficking and forced labor, and a destination country for foreign men and women subjected to forced labor and forced prostitution,” the report says.  “Fiji’s role as a regional transportation hub makes it a potential transit area for human trafficking.”

Victims in Fiji are allegedly exploited in illegal brothels, local hotels, private homes, and other rural and urban locations, it says, adding that victims “primarily are recruited in their home countries or deceptively recruited while visiting Fiji.”

For Tonga, the report says the island kingdom is a “destination country for women subjected to sex trafficking and is, to a lesser extent, a source country for women and children subjected to domestic sex trafficking and domestic and international forced labor.”

“This report ... gives a clear and honest assessment of where all of us are making progress on our commitments and where we are either standing still or even sliding backwards,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton late last month, prior to the release of the report.

“This year’s report tells us that we are making a lot of progress. Twenty-nine countries were upgraded from a lower tier to a higher one, which means that their governments are taking the right steps,” she said. “This could mean enacting strong laws, stepping up their investigations and prosecutions, or simply laying out a roadmap of steps they will take to respond.”



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