Marshall Islands

Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons


The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) is a source and destination country for RMI women and girls and women from East Asia subjected to sex trafficking. RMI girls are recruited by foreign business owners to engage in prostitution with crew members of foreign fishing and transshipping vessels that dock in Majuro. Foreign women, most of whom are long-term residents, are subjected to forced prostitution in establishments frequented by crew members of Chinese and other foreign fishing vessels; some Chinese women are recruited with promises of legitimate work and, after paying large recruitment fees, are forced into prostitution.

The Government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and was placed on Tier 2 Watch List from 2013-2014. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act provides that a country may remain on Tier 2 Watch List for only two consecutive years, unless that restriction is waived because the government has a written plan to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government does not have a written plan; therefore, Marshall Islands is deemed not to be making significant efforts to comply with the minimum standards and is placed on Tier 3. The government failed to effectively implement its anti-trafficking law; government officials have not reported any trafficking prosecutions for four consecutive years. The government made no efforts to proactively identify victims, especially among vulnerable populations, such as foreign and local women in prostitution and foreign men working on fishing vessels in Marshallese waters.


Amend the criminal code to prohibit all forms of trafficking; adopt proactive procedures to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable groups, such as foreign workers and women in prostitution; increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish traffickers; train law enforcement and judicial officials to implement the anti-trafficking law; designate a lead ministry to coordinate anti-trafficking efforts among government agencies and establish a government anti-trafficking taskforce that can spearhead anti-trafficking efforts; draft and approve a national plan of action that outlines RMI’s plan to combat trafficking; prosecute public officials when they are complicit in trafficking activities or hindering ongoing trafficking prosecutions; fund and administer, in cooperation with NGOs and international organizations, protective services for victims; develop and conduct anti-trafficking education and awareness raising campaigns; undertake research to study human trafficking in the country; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.


The government made no anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Article 251 of the criminal code prohibits only transnational forms of human trafficking and prescribes penalties of up to 35 months’ imprisonment for the trafficking of adults and up to 10 years’ imprisonment for the trafficking of children. The penalties for the trafficking of children are sufficiently stringent, but the penalties for trafficking adults are not, and only the penalties for the trafficking of children are commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In addition to trafficking, Article 251 also criminalizes other activities, including labor violations and the promotion of prostitution.

The government did not initiate any new trafficking investigations, compared with one initiated in 2013. The investigation initiated in 2013 involving foreign women in forced prostitution did not result in prosecutions for trafficking offenses or convictions. The government did not provide training to law enforcement or judicial officials on the anti-trafficking law, the identification of victims, or the prosecution of traffickers. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.


The government made no efforts to identify trafficking victims or ensure their access to protective services. The government did not identify any victims of trafficking for four consecutive years. Law enforcement and social services personnel did not employ systematic procedures to proactively identify trafficking victims among high-risk populations, such as women in prostitution and foreign migrant workers onboard fishing vessels. The government reportedly made available free medical, legal, and police protection services for victims of trafficking, but no formal mechanism existed to verify this assistance was provided to any victims. The government did not provide or allocate funding specifically for the provision of services to victims. The government did not provide legal alternatives to the removal of victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution and did not provide victims long-term residence visas or legal employment opportunities.


The government made limited efforts to prevent trafficking. A police officer and attorney general participated in awareness-raising school assemblies, conducted by an international organization, by speaking to students about the crimes of human trafficking and the penalties associated with it. The government’s informal taskforce drafted a charter, a required document before the taskforce can draft a national plan of action; the government, however, did not yet approve the charter. The approval of the establishment of a national taskforce on human trafficking also remained pending for the third consecutive year. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel. The government did not take steps to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. The RMI is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.


* Auto downgrade from Tier 2 Watch List