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 children 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. Some of these foreign fishermen may themselves be subject to conditions indicative of forced labor on ships in Marshallese waters. 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 the promise of legitimate work and, after paying large recruitment fees, are forced into prostitution. Limited reports indicate some Marshallese searching for work in the United States experience indicators of trafficking, such as passport confiscation, excessive work hours, and fraudulent recruitment. Some Marshallese children are transported to the United States where they are subjected to situations of sexual abuse with indicators of sex trafficking.

The Government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. The government’s National Task Force on Human Trafficking (NTHT) drafted and submitted for cabinet approval a national action plan developed from its monthly meetings between law enforcement, NGOs, and other government representatives and has begun implementing part of the plan while awaiting endorsement from the cabinet. The NTHT’s awareness-raising efforts to combat trafficking in persons reached more than 1,500 people during the reporting period and focused on at-risk young, economically disadvantaged Marshallese. In 2015, the government passed and enacted the Child Rights Protection Act, which addressed the gap in criminalization of domestic child trafficking in RMI’s legislation. However, the government failed to effectively implement its anti-trafficking law; and government officials have not reported any trafficking prosecutions for five 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.


Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish traffickers; 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; approve a national plan of action that outlines RMI’s plan to combat trafficking and has dedicated resources for implementation; train law enforcement and prosecution officials to implement the anti-trafficking laws; adopt comprehensive labor codes to govern workers’ rights and employers’ responsibilities; prosecute public officials when they are complicit in trafficking activities; 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 increased some of its 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 subjecting children to trafficking are sufficiently stringent, but the penalties for adult trafficking 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. In October 2015, the government passed and enacted the Child Rights Protection Act to prohibit the domestic and transnational trafficking of children.

The government did not initiate any new trafficking investigations, compared to one initiated in 2013. The investigation initiated in 2013 involving foreign women in forced prostitution remained ongoing and did not result in prosecutions for trafficking offenses or convictions. The government facilitated two anti-trafficking trainings conducted by an international organization through the free provision of venues. Seventeen victim service providers received victim protection and identification training in January 2016, and 75 law enforcement officials and lawyers received anti-trafficking law enforcement training in March 2016. 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 has not identified any trafficking victims for five 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 for trafficking victims, 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. There were no reports of potential trafficking victims being punished for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking; however, the government identified no victims.


The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The NTHT, a cabinet-based advisory board, held monthly meetings with participation from the director of immigration, assistant attorney general, law enforcement authorities, NGOs, and faith-based organizations. The NTHT drafted a national plan of action and has presented it to the cabinet for approval. To educate the vulnerable population of young Marshallese looking to emigrate for employment, the NTHT proactively conducted anti-trafficking awareness-raising outreach to over 1,500 high school students, college students, government officials, and the general public in RMI’s two major cities. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training 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.