TONGA: Tier 2
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 Tongan women and 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 reporting period, the government held a national human trafficking workshop facilitating the training of 15 Tongan officials. In addition, it provided 50,000 pa’anga ($26,200) to an NGO that assists women and child victims of crime, including potential trafficking victims. The government, however, failed to identify or directly assist any victims or make any law enforcement efforts using the newly passed anti-trafficking law. The government also did not make progress in establishing a national coordinating body on human trafficking issues or in developing anti-trafficking awareness campaigns.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR TONGA:
Adopt procedures to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable groups; increase training for law enforcement officials and labor inspectors on human trafficking, including on how to identify and assist victims; increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes and punish traffickers; provide Asian language interpretation services to facilitate identification of foreign victims and their subsequent referral to care and cooperation with law enforcement; enact a law or establish a policy to provide explicit protections for trafficking victims, such as restitution, legal and medical benefits, and immigration relief; develop and conduct anti-trafficking information and education campaigns; investigate, prosecute, and punish incidences of child sex trafficking and raise awareness of the problem; develop a national action plan; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
The government made negligible anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The Counter Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime Act does not prohibit all forms of trafficking because it defines trafficking only as a transnational crime. This law prescribes penalties of up to 15 years’ imprisonment for trafficking offenses involving adult victims and 20 years’ imprisonment for offenses involving children; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape. Since convicting its first trafficker in April 2011, the government has not investigated any suspected trafficking cases or identified any trafficking victims. In partnership with a foreign donor, the attorney general’s office led a human trafficking workshop for Tongan officials in May. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses.
The government made negligible efforts to protect trafficking victims. The government did not identify or provide protective services to any victims during the reporting period. It did not develop or employ systematic procedures for the identification of 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 to care. The government provided 50,000 pa’anga ($26,200) to one local NGO for operations to assist women and child victims of crime; although trafficking victims were eligible to use these services, no identified trafficking victims benefited from its services in 2014. Under the 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. Victims could be granted asylum in Tonga if they feared retribution or hardship in their country of origin, though no trafficking victim has ever requested asylum. Victims have the ability to file civil cases against their traffickers, but none filed such cases in 2014.
The government made negligible efforts to prevent human trafficking. The government did not develop a national action plan to combat trafficking, establish a coordinating body to spearhead anti-trafficking efforts, or conduct educational campaigns to increase awareness of trafficking in Tonga. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel. It also 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.