A US State Department report has found that Malta fails to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking despite being warned to do so in six consecutive annual reports.
While the Trafficking in Persons Report does acknowledge the increased efforts from the Maltese government in funding training for police recruits and officers, border agents and diplomats, along with better identifying and providing of shelter and services to victims, the government failed to secure any trafficking convictions.
The US’ Trafficking and Violence Protection Act has been applied in various countries all over the world, with most of the EU member states being ranked in the top tier as their governments comply with the act. Malta, along with some Eastern European states, bring the very rear of the pack in the second tier, which is reserved for countries whose governments do not meet the minimum standards but are making significant efforts to do so. A third tier follows the one Malta is in.
The report worryingly refers to Malta as “a source and destination country for women and children subjected to sex trafficking and a destination for force labour victims”, going on to identify the individual cases which were recorded between April 2016 and this March. According to the findings, the Malta Police Force identified 35 foreign trafficking victims, 32 of which were Filipino labour trafficking victims in the same case involving a cleaning company. There was only one sex trafficking victim identified, a female.
The Maltese government was urged to “vigorously investigate and prosecute” human trafficking offences, with the report stating that “adequate” sentencing for the culprits need to be implemented. Other recommendations include increasing efforts and training personnel so as to be able to identify trafficking victims (especially among vulnerable migrant populations), and keeping an eye on issues such as child trafficking and prostitution.
Some minors who could have been unidentified sex trafficking victims were convicted by the courts in connection with prostitution charges in recent years, the report worryingly adds. Moreover, migrants who entered the country illegally were routinely held in detention centres, and some of these people could have been trafficking victims. The report does however mention the new guidelines which were issued by the government in December of 2015, whereby the circumstances under which irregular migrants could be detained were limited.