TONGA: Tier 2 Watch List
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 exploited in prostitution 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. There are reports of foreign men who attempted to transit Tonga in situations of potential debt bondage.
The Government of Tonga does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these measures, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Tonga is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. During the reporting period, the police force began to include anti-trafficking as part of its training of new recruits. In addition, it provided 50,000 pa’anga ($23,507) to an NGO that assists women and child victims of crime, including potential trafficking victims. While the government began investigating one potential trafficking case, it remained without formal procedures for the identification of trafficking victims. The government did not make progress in establishing a national coordinating body on human trafficking or in developing anti-trafficking awareness campaigns.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR TONGA:
Develop and fully implement procedures to identify trafficking victims proactively 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, including child sex trafficking, and punish traffickers; ensure anti-trafficking laws are not limited to cross-border movement; provide Asian-language interpretation services to facilitate identification of foreign victims and their referral to care and cooperation with law enforcement; enact a law or 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; raise awareness of child sex trafficking; develop a national action plan and establish a coordinating body to guide national anti-trafficking efforts; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
The government made minimal 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 identified any trafficking victims or prosecuted any trafficking cases. The government initiated one investigation of a potential trafficking case involving Bangladeshi men in conditions indicative of forced labor and began to include anti-trafficking in persons training for new police recruits during the reporting period. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses.
The government made minimal efforts to protect trafficking victims, identifying four potential trafficking victims during the reporting period. Nonetheless, it did not develop or employ systematic procedures for victim identification among at-risk groups, such as undocumented migrants or women in prostitution. The government has procedures to refer crime victims to an NGO service provider for assistance and referred trafficking victims to counseling services in 2015. The government provided 50,000 pa’anga ($23,507) to one local NGO 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 these services in 2015. There are no shelter facilities available to male victims older than 15 years old. 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. In the one potential human trafficking case under investigation, the government provided permits to the foreign males found to be in conditions indicative of forced labor, allowing them to reside and work in Tonga legally during the investigation. Victims could be granted asylum in Tonga if they feared retribution or hardship in their country of origin, although no trafficking victim has ever requested asylum. Victims have the ability to file civil cases against their traffickers, but none filed such cases in 2015. There were no reports officials penalized trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking.
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 take action to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor during the reporting period. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel. Tonga is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.