Tonga is a destination country for women subjected to sex trafficking and, to a lesser extent, a source country for women and children subjected to domestic sex trafficking and forced labor. East Asian women, especially those from China, are prostituted in clandestine establishments operating as legitimate businesses; some East Asian women are recruited from their home countries for legitimate work in Tonga, paying large sums of money in recruitment fees, and upon arrival are forced into prostitution. Some children are reportedly subjected to involuntary domestic servitude.
The Government of Tonga does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the year, the government funded an NGO-run safe house that provides services to victims of crimes; however, no trafficking victims were identified as using these services. The government passed the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime Act of 2013, but did not make any anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts or identify and protect any trafficking victims. The government also showed no progress in developing a national coordinating body on human trafficking issues or in developing or conducting anti-trafficking education campaigns.
Recommendations for Tonga:
Adopt procedures to proactively identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups; increase training for law enforcement officials and labor inspectors on human trafficking, including on how to identify and assist trafficking victims; increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes and punish trafficking offenders; develop strategies to engage communities, such as Asian communities, with suspected ties to trafficking; enact a law or establish a policy that provides explicit protections for victims of trafficking, such as restitution, legal and medical benefits, and immigration relief; develop and conduct anti-trafficking information and education campaigns; publicly recognize, investigate, prosecute, and punish incidences of child sex trafficking; develop a national action plan for countering trafficking in persons; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
The Government of Tonga made modest progress in its law enforcement efforts to address human trafficking. The government passed the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime Act in 2013, which strengthened its anti-trafficking legal framework; however, the act does not prohibit all forms of trafficking because it defines trafficking as a transnational crime. This law prescribes penalties for trafficking offenses of up to 20 years’ imprisonment; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape. Since convicting its first trafficking case in April 2011, the government has not investigated any suspected trafficking cases or identified any victims of trafficking.
The government did not report funding any training for law enforcement during the reporting period, but four Tongan prosecutors, immigration officials, and police officers attended a three-day Pacific regional trafficking in persons workshop hosted by a foreign government. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, convictions, or punishments of officials for complicity in human trafficking during the reporting period. Corruption amongst government officials was a concern; however, there were no known allegations that officials were complicit in 2013.
The Government of Tonga made limited progress in ensuring victims had access to protective services. The government did not identify any trafficking victims during the reporting period. It did not develop or employ systematic procedures for the identification of trafficking victims among at-risk groups, such as undocumented migrants or women in prostitution. The government has procedures for referring crime victims to an NGO service provider for assistance, but did not use these procedures for the referral of trafficking victims for care in 2013. The government provided the equivalent of approximately $28,460—compared to $42,600 in 2012—in funding from its national budget to one local NGO during the reporting period for operations to assist women and children victims of crime; although trafficking victims were eligible to use these services, no identified trafficking victims benefited from its services in 2013.
Under the government’s Immigration Act, the principal immigration officer has broad discretionary authority to grant trafficking victims permits to stay in the country for any length of time necessary for their protection. Trafficking victims could be granted asylum in Tonga if they fear retribution or hardship in their country of origin, though no trafficking victim has ever requested asylum. While victims have the ability to file civil cases against their traffickers, no such cases were filed. The government has polices to encourage foreign victims to participate in prosecution, but no such situations were reported during the year.
The Government of Tonga made negligible efforts to prevent human trafficking. The government did not develop a formalized national plan of action to combat trafficking, establish a coordinating body to spearhead anti-trafficking efforts, or conduct educational campaigns to increase awareness of trafficking in Tonga. It did not take action to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor during the reporting period. Tonga is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.