Report: Human trafficking in insular areas, including American Samoa
Washington, D.C. — “Trafficking in person occurs in the U.S. insular areas, including American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI),” according to the US State Department’s 2019 Trafficking In Person (TIP) Report released last week Thursday.
The 513-page report didn’t place neighboring Samoa on the list of countries cited in the report with human trafficking issues, although Fiji and Tonga are among the South Pacific countries listed.
“Human trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes on earth,” said US Secretary of State, Michael R. Pompeo in a statement in releasing the annual report. “We must band together and build momentum to defeat human trafficking.”
“We must hold the perpetrators of this heinous crime accountable. We must achieve justice for survivors as they rebuild their lives. We must reinvigorate our shared commitment to extinguish human trafficking wherever it exists. There is no time to waste,” he said, adding, “traffickers are robbing a staggering 24.9 million people of their freedom and basic human dignity.”
In the TIP Report, the State Department places each country on 1 of 3 tiers based on the extent of their governments’ efforts to comply with the “minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking” found in provision of the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA).
While Tier 1 is the highest ranked, it does not mean that a country has no human trafficking problem. Tier 1 ranking indicates that a government has acknowledged the existence of human trafficking, made efforts to address the problem, and complied with the TVPA’s minimum standards.
Tier 2 countries are those whose governments do not fully comply with an TVPA's minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards. Tier 3 countries, are those whose government do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.
The US territories are included in a separate section on the United States — where human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign national victims, and traffickers exploit victims from the United States abroad, according to the report, which places the US on Tier 1.
There were no specific cases cited in the 2019 report pertaining to the insular areas; however, the US Justice Department — among other things — continues to advance an initiative that enhances coordination with stakeholders in the Pacific region on victim services, law enforcement responses, training, community outreach, and prevention programs.
Additionally, the US Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS) provides services to foreign national victims of trafficking in the 4 territories. In fiscal year 2018, the USDHHS-funded national hotline received no calls from territories on human trafficking, compared to 19 in FY 2017
According to USDHHS public records, the national hotline (1-888-373-7888), comes under the department’s Administration for Children & Families, Office of Trafficking in Person. Its website <www.acf.hhs.gov> provides details on human trafficking issues and reports.
Samoa News notes that American Samoa’s anti-human trafficking law went into effect in June 2014.
Samoa is not on either of the 3 Tiers in the report, although “A Note on Samoa and Vanuatu” in the report states that, “For the first time, media reports from the reporting period [year 2018] indicated Samoa as a country of origin and Vanuatu as a country of destination for victims of trafficking.”
“Information on the anti-trafficking efforts of these governments and the nature and scope of trafficking in persons in each country were insufficient to achieve a full assessment for the 2019 Report,” it says, noting that the State Department will continue gathering information in the coming year and assess what, if any, reporting is appropriate” for the 2020 report.
Samoa and other Pacific countries were cited in the report on New Zealand, which is placed on Tier 1. It states that New Zealand police and immigration officials cooperated with authorities in Samoa and Fiji on two separate trafficking investigations, which resulted in the arrest of one suspected trafficker by Fijian authorities in August 2018.
The report points out that foreign men and women from Fiji, Samoa, China, India, the Philippines, and countries in Latin America are vulnerable to forced labor in New Zealand’s agricultural, dairy, construction, viticulture, food service, technology, and hospitality sectors, and as domestic workers.
(New Zealand offers a special work program allowing citizens of Samoa and other Pacific countries to work in the agriculture industry.)
Tonga and Fiji — which are among a handful of South Pacific small island countries cited in the report — are placed in Tier 2.
Details of the report are on the State Department’s website <www.state.gov>