Recurring incidents of unjust labor practices and human trafficking by a retail store in the Federated States of Micronesia have remained unaddressed despite numerous complaints filed by alleged victims.
The complaints came from persons who worked for Padma Enterprises, which operates the Saki Store and JG/Roshi Store in Chuuk, FSM. One of the complainants said that government authorities in the FSM and India have been informed about these incidents.
The complainants allege that the company confiscated their passports upon arrival in the FSM. Their wages were also withheld by the owners for several months with no explanation given. With their wages directly paid out to an account in India, the workers had no money for their daily expenses. They were also prohibited from interacting with other people and constantly monitored 24/7.
The owners also reportedly used “abusive language” against their workers.
A website (http://demian223.blogspot.com/) created by an unknown individual warned overseas workers from ‘being duped” into working for the company.
“They are very persuasive. They are good at smooth talking to you when you are being interviewed but none of what they are telling is the truth. When you arrive in Micronesia you will only be abused,” said the lone blog entry in all caps.
The FSM is a source, transit, and, to a limited extent, a destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking, according to the U.S. State Department. Foreign migrant workers and sex laborers are among the most vulnerable sectors for human trafficking in the region.
Over the years, several cases of human trafficking have been reported in the FSM. In July, the Philippine Coast Guard and the National Bureau of Investigation raided “Forever Lucky,” a Philippine-owned ship in the Bataan port. Philippine authorities detained what media reports described as "139 victims of human trafficking and illegal recruitment." The ship was headed for Yap, according to reports.
The four FSM states have laws that prohibit all or specific forms of human trafficking. According to information posted by the U.S. State Department, “Chuuk state’s law prescribes penalties of up to 15 years’ imprisonment for forced labor, 25 years’ imprisonment for child trafficking, and fines up to $10,000, or both.
The FSM also has a national law banning all forms of human trafficking. However, the U.S. State Department currently ranks the FSM as a tier 2 nation in terms of compliance with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
The State Department’s 2017 Trafficking in Persons report noted that in 2016, the FSM government reported conducting investigations into eight alleged trafficking cases in Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Yap.
A human trafficking incident or complaint does not require movement. “People may be considered trafficking victims regardless of whether they were born into a state of servitude, were transported to the exploitative situation, previously consented to work for a trafficker, or participated in a crime as a direct result of being trafficked,” according to the State Department.