No known human trafficking cases for AS in 2011, 2012
American Samoa has no known cases of trafficking in person recorded in the previous fiscal year, according to the 2013 U.S. State Department Trafficking in Person report released recently which includes world countries and U.S. territories.
The federal report states, “American Samoa is believed to be a transit and destination for human trafficking” but in fiscal year 2012, “ there were no known human trafficking cases”. (The report for FY 2011 also shows no known cases of human trafficking in American Samoa but that report also hinted at the territory being a transit and destination for human trafficking.)
In the 2013 report, the federal government says that the Fono introduced a bill to amend existing anti-trafficking laws on Mar. 6, 2013, which would criminalize human trafficking as a felony offense.
However, Samoa News should point out that currently there are no human trafficking laws for the territory, and the bill, which is sponsored by several House members, would criminalize human trafficking including that of underage children. This is not the first bill to be introduced over the years dealing with human trafficking and all the previous ones failed to make it out of committee.
But the local government’s case against Hanipale Malae, who allegedly raped and assaulted three girls - including a 15 year old - brought in from Samoa as house girls, drew immediate criticism from advocates against domestic violence, who said that this case is an extreme indication that the territory needs stronger laws against human trafficking.
"This type of lawlessness has been going on for years," Ipu Avegalio-Lefiti, a founding member of the American Samoa Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence told The Associated Press early this month when charges were filed.
"Because we had no name for it, it was allowed to stay under the radar,” said Avegalio-Lefiti who is also vice chairwoman of a separate task force against family violence.
Rep. Larry Sanitoa, one of the bill’s sponsors, says he hopes lawmakers will approve the human trafficking legislation during the upcoming legislative session.
The other U.S. territories were also cited in the 2013 federal report. For example, at the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the federal report says its a “destination and transit location for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking”. It says that DOI’s Office of Insular Affairs’ Federal Ombudsman’s Office reopened an investigation of a case of fraud in foreign labor contracting from 2009 and identified 10 more human trafficking cases; and the victims have filed applications for T nonimmigrant status.
According to the report, federal authorities charged two men with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and financially benefitting from a sex trafficking venture involving Chinese women; both defendants pled guilty and sentencing was pending at the close of the reporting period.
For Guam, the report says it's a source and transit location for men, women, and children subject to forced labor and sex trafficking. During the reporting period, a defendant was sentenced in federal court to life imprisonment on 20 counts, including sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion and sex trafficking of a minor for recruiting and defrauding nine Chuukese women and one girl and forcing them to engage in commercial sex acts.
The report pointed out to something of interest: since 1950, a dual judicial structure has existed in Guam, with an independent local judicial system taking responsibility for cases arising under Guam’s criminal statutes.
As a result of the federal sex trafficking investigation, three Guam police officers were charged by local authorities for their involvement in the scheme, and one officer pled guilty to felonious restraint and official misconduct.
Cases of human trafficking were also cited for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
At last month’s annual meeting of the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Interior Department deputy secretary David J. Hayes that DOI also focused on human trafficking in the Insular Areas of CNMI, Guam and American Samoa.
“There’s a very bad history here. Things are better now, but we are monitoring the situation carefully, and our Office of Insular Affairs has recently hired a specialist to work, in particular, with the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands with a human trafficking intervention coalition there,” said Hayes, according to a copy of the meeting’s transcript posted on the State Department’s website.
“And they work to provide visa services to women who are in trouble so that they can be protected from inappropriate situations. So we appreciate the opportunity to work across government cooperatively with our many colleagues on these important fronts,” he said.