Madagascar is a source country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and women and children subjected to sex trafficking. International observers and NGO reports indicate that sex and labor trafficking of Madagascar’s citizens has continued to increase, particularly due to a lack of economic development and a decline in the rule of law since the political crisis that began in March 2009. Thousands of Malagasy women are employed as domestic workers in Lebanon, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia; a smaller number of workers have also departed for Jordan, Mauritius, and Seychelles in search of jobs. Many of the women who migrate are single mothers who come from rural areas and are illiterate, making them vulnerable to deception and abuse at the hands of recruitment agencies and employers. Trafficking victims returning from Lebanon, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia reported rape, psychological abuse, physical torture and violence, sexual harassment and assault, harsh working conditions, confinement to the home, confiscation of travel documents, and withholding of salaries. At least five deaths were reported among this population during the year. During the reporting period, Malagasy women and girls were recruited to work in domestic service in China; some of these women and girls were subsequently subjected to forced labor and sold as brides. Malagasy men have been subjected to forced labor aboard Chinese-flagged fishing vessels in South Africa’s territorial waters.
Malagasy children, mostly from rural areas, are subjected to domestic servitude, prostitution, forced begging, and forced labor in mining, fishing, and agriculture within the country. Most child sex trafficking occurs with the involvement of family members, but friends, transport operators, tour guides, and hotel workers also facilitate the trafficking of children. Informal employment agencies recruit child domestic servants who are subsequently subjected to forced labor. Parents force their children into various forms of prostitution to earn money to support their families; in some cases, parents have directly negotiated prices with clients when prostituting their children. Some children are fraudulently recruited for work in the capital as waitresses, maids, and masseuses before being coerced into prostitution. NGOs reported an increase in the prevalence of child prostitution since the installation of formal mining projects in Toamasina and, more strikingly, in the informal mining sectors in Illakaka. NGOs also reported that child sex tourism continued to increase during the last year, particularly in the coastal cities of Toamasina, Nosy Be, Toliary, Antsiranana, and Mahajunga, as well as in the capital, Antananarivo. There was also a significant increase in the exploitation of younger children in the commercial sex trade, with cases involving children as young as 8-years-old. The main clients of prostituted boys and girls in Madagascar are Malagasy men. Most child sex tourists are French (including from Mayotte) and Italian nationals, with some reports of sexual exploitation by other Western nationals. There were also isolated cases of Comorian nationals engaging in child sex tourism in Nosy Be during the reporting period.
The Government of Madagascar does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these efforts, the government did not demonstrate evidence of overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Madagascar is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year. Since the March 2009 coup, combating human trafficking has not been a priority for the regime’s leadership, despite the growing size of the problem both internally and transnationally. However, during the reporting period, technical experts helped secure the first seven convictions reported under the 2007 anti-trafficking law, and key ministries partnered with international organizations and NGOs to increase prevention efforts. Despite widespread corruption and alleged complicity of government officials in trafficking offenses, the government failed to investigate or prosecute officials responsible for these offenses. It lacked formal procedures to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations and did not systematically provide services or refer victims to NGOs for care. For a fifth year, the government did not engage with the Government of Lebanon regarding protection and legal remedies for exploited Malagasy workers and, in most cases, failed to assist with the return of Malagasy victims to Madagascar.
Recommendations for Madagascar:
Continue to use the anti-trafficking law, including at the regional level, to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, including those involving forced labor; vigorously investigate and prosecute government officials suspected of trafficking-related complicity and, when appropriate, convict and apply sufficient punishments to such officials; amend the anti-trafficking law to provide sufficiently stringent penalties for labor trafficking; provide anti-trafficking training to law enforcement, labor, and social welfare officials on how to adequately identify victims, investigate cases, and refer victims to appropriate services; work with the governments of destination countries to guarantee protections for Malagasy domestic workers that are in compliance with international standards and jointly address cases of abuse; bolster consular services in the Middle East to provide adequate protection for Malagasy workers; improve data collection on law enforcement efforts to combat trafficking, including the number of victims identified, cases investigated and prosecuted, and the number of convictions of trafficking offenders; provide adequate funding to the anti-trafficking inter-ministerial committee and promote coordination between the committee, NGOs, and international partners; and increase efforts to raise public awareness of labor trafficking, including the labor trafficking of adults.
The government maintained law enforcement efforts during the year, resulting in at least seven prosecutions and seven convictions of offenders under the 2007 anti-trafficking law. Anti-Trafficking Law No. 2007-038 prohibits all forms of human trafficking, but prescribes punishments only for sex trafficking; prescribed penalties range from two years’ to life imprisonment and are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Article 262 of Madagascar’s labor code criminalizes labor trafficking, for which it prescribes insufficiently stringent penalties of one to three years’ imprisonment. Decree 2007-563 prescribes insufficiently stringent punishments of up to two years’ imprisonment for various forms of child trafficking, including prostitution, domestic servitude, and forced labor, which are at odds with the more significant punishments provided under the anti-trafficking law. During the reporting period, the National Police’s Morals and Minors Brigade investigated 68 cases related to trafficking and exploitative child labor offenses. The Criminal Affairs Brigade also investigated the deaths of four alleged trafficking victims whose remains were returned from Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. The government was unable to confirm how many of the investigated cases were referred to prosecution due to poor data collection. However, at least seven traffickers were prosecuted and convicted of trafficking offenses in Nosy Be during the reporting period; the defendants were convicted of child sex trafficking and received sentences ranging from 12 months’ to five years’ imprisonment. Of the seven convicted offenders, three were minors, and therefore received reduced prison sentences of 12 months’ imprisonment; the remaining four convicted offenders received penalties ranging from two to five years’ imprisonment, in accordance with the penalties prescribed under the 2007 anti-trafficking law. These were the first convictions ever reported under the 2007 anti-trafficking law.
Public officials’ complicity in human trafficking remained a significant problem. Reports indicate that various government officials purchased sexual services from children in Antananarivo and Nosy Be. Additionally, police in Nosy Be allegedly encouraged financial arrangements between victims and their offenders, rather than pursuing charges, which perpetuated impunity. There were increased reports of senior government officials’ complicity in the trafficking of domestic workers abroad during the reporting period. For example, senior officials from the Ministry of Labor reportedly assisted unlicensed recruitment agencies in obtaining fraudulent travel and identification documents. Additionally, local officials were complicit in obtaining fraudulent identity cards, which facilitated the sex trafficking of children domestically. Despite these reports, the government did not report any investigations or prosecutions of public officials for alleged complicity in trafficking-related offenses.
The government made some efforts to protect victims. However, it lacked formal procedures to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations and did not systematically provide services or refer victims for care. The Ministry of Population and Social Affairs, in collaboration with an international organization, supported approximately 450 active multi-sector networks covering 22 regions throughout the country to protect children from abuse and exploitation. These networks were meant to protect children from various forms of abuse and exploitation, as well as ensure access to medical and psychosocial services for victims; however, the quality of services provided varied greatly depending on the location of the networks. These networks documented a total of 2,837 cases of child exploitation, approximately 182 of which are believed to have involved trafficking; it is unclear how many of these victims were referred to adequate protective services. NGOs offered services to an additional 299 victims. The Ministry of Labor operated and provided the equivalent of approximately $36,000 to the Manjarisoa Center in Antananarivo, which offered services to 30 victims of exploitative child labor and child sex trafficking; however, the government did not operate any shelters specifically for trafficking victims or provide support to NGO-run care facilities. NGOs provided counseling, legal services, and medical care to victims and referred them to government hospitals. Available services and facilities were insufficient and often nonexistent in areas beyond Antananarivo. There were no reports that the government arrested or punished trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. However, in at least one case, an employer made false accusations against his domestic worker in retaliation after the worker reported that she was physically abused by the employer; although the victim was wrongfully jailed for nearly a month, she was later released and the employer was convicted for assault. There are no formal procedures in place to encourage victims to assist law enforcement in the prosecution of their traffickers; however, the police reported that some trafficking victims were active participants in the investigations of their alleged traffickers during the reporting period.
During the reporting period, multiple trafficking victims continued to return from Lebanon, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, where they were subjected to various forms of abuse while working in domestic service. For a fifth consecutive year, the government did not engage the Government of Lebanon regarding the protection of and legal remedies for exploited Malagasy workers; however, the government began discussions with the governments of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia concerning the protection of Malagasy workers. Madagascar’s Charge d’Affaires at the Consulate in Saudi Arabia and the honorary Consul in Beirut failed to adequately address the needs of Malagasy trafficking victims, refusing to advocate for victim protection or to launch investigations into allegations of abuse. When Malagasy trafficking victims were repatriated, the government failed to provide them with resources or assistance; the vast majority arrived in Madagascar destitute and in need of psychological and medical services.
The government made modest efforts to prevent trafficking. An ad hoc inter-ministerial committee, led by the Prime Minister’s Office, convened on an informal basis to coordinate the government’s anti-trafficking efforts; however, the government did not provide any funding to support the committee’s activities during the reporting period. A ban on domestic worker travel to Lebanon remained in place during the reporting period. The inter-ministerial committee developed a decree, issued by the Prime Minister, prohibiting domestic workers from going to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia until the receiving countries institute sufficient protection measures for migrant workers. Following the adoption of this decree, the government began negotiations with the governments of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to develop bilateral conventions to protect the rights of migrant workers; however, neither convention was finalized at the end of the reporting period. Although the number of migrant workers traveling to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia decreased after the decree was issued, unlicensed recruitment agencies used neighboring islands such as Mauritius and Comoros as transit points to continue sending Malagasy domestic workers to these and other destination countries for trafficking victims. In one documented case, Comorian authorities in Anjouan intercepted Malagasy women intending to travel to the French island of Mayotte in order to board flights to the Middle East; Comorian officials then coordinated their return to Madagascar. The Government of Madagascar did not make an effort to improve its oversight of recruitment agencies, and government officials and NGOs reported that some government officials supported the illicit activity of these agencies.
The police continued to operate a 24/7 national hotline to report child exploitation cases, which led to numerous trafficking investigations. The Ministry of Population, with funding from an international organization, launched a national awareness campaign to encourage the general public to report cases of child exploitation, including trafficking. The Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Population continued to partner with local NGOs and international organizations to implement a code of conduct to combat the commercial exploitation of children in the Nosy Be tourism industry; as part of this effort, officials from both ministries served on a local implementation committee charged with enforcing compliance by tourism establishments who previously endorsed the code of conduct. The National Tourism Office placed an advertisement in a brochure distributed to all air travelers arriving in Madagascar, which highlighted the illegality of engaging in the commercial sexual exploitation of children in Madagascar. The government did not make any tangible efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor during the reporting period.