MALTA: Tier 2
Malta is a source and destination country for women and children subjected to sex trafficking and a destination for women and men subjected to labor trafficking. Female sex trafficking victims primarily originate from China, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Russia, and Ukraine. Women and children from Malta have also been subjected to sex trafficking within the country. Forced labor victims largely originate from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Women from Southeast Asia working as domestic workers, Chinese nationals working in massage parlors, and women from Central and Eastern Europe working in nightclubs represent populations vulnerable to exploitation. Maltese children in prostitution, including those with drug dependencies, are vulnerable to sex trafficking in Malta. The approximately 5,000 irregular migrants from African countries residing in Malta may be vulnerable to trafficking in the country’s informal labor market.
The Government of Malta does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting period, authorities successfully identified more victims and launched the country’s first labor trafficking investigations. The anti-trafficking committee approved a new national action plan, semiannual monitoring reports, a booklet on using the victim referral procedures, and information cards listing trafficking indicators and a helpline. Law enforcement efforts, however, were stymied by a lack of accountability for criminals perpetuating this crime; Malta has not secured a trafficking conviction since early 2012. Despite the increase in victims requiring care services and the need to train judges and law enforcement on working with victims, the government halved the budget for trafficking programs.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR MALTA:
Hold traffickers accountable through convictions and dissuasive sentences; train police, investigators, and judges on working with traumatized victims; provide adequate funding for victim assistance, trainings, and prevention campaigns; continue to strengthen efforts to identify trafficking victims proactively among vulnerable populations, particularly migrant workers and individuals in prostitution; train stakeholders on the use of the standard operating procedures for victim referral; screen minors found in prostitution for indicators of third-party involvement and treat those minors as victims; and consider directing all trafficking cases to judges who have received trafficking-specific training.
The government demonstrated mixed progress in law enforcement efforts. Malta prohibits both sex and labor trafficking through Article 248A-G of the criminal code, which prescribes penalties of four to 12 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government investigated five new trafficking cases during the reporting period, compared with four in the previous period. Three of these cases involved labor trafficking, marking the first labor trafficking investigations in Malta’s history. Authorities initiated prosecutions of seven suspected traffickers, the same number as in the previous period. The government has not achieved a trafficking conviction since early 2012. The prosecution of a police officer for alleged involvement with the trafficker convicted in 2012 remained pending due to an appeal of that conviction. The slow pace of court proceedings hampered prosecutions relying on foreign victims to give testimony in court. The government provided trafficking-specific training for police officers, but did not offer training for prosecutors or the judiciary. Frequent turnover of vice unit investigators, who also serve as prosecutors, presented a challenge to authorities working to ensure all stakeholders receive specialized training. Observers reported the need for additional training for police officers and judges on working with victims.
The government made progress in protecting victims. Police identified 18 trafficking victims, an increase from seven in the previous period. Ten of the victims originated from a large labor trafficking case, which was under prosecution by Maltese authorities at the close of the reporting period. Authorities’ success in identifying more victims was due in part to increased inspections of businesses susceptible to human trafficking, as well as greater awareness-raising of available services. None of the victims identified was a Maltese national or a minor; the government has never identified a child victim of trafficking. Despite the higher number of victims identified, the government halved its 2015 budget for trafficking programs from the previous year to 20,000 euro ($21,800).
The government published a booklet for stakeholders about victim referral procedures. The procedures allowed a range of entities to refer victims to the government’s social welfare agency for crisis intervention care, including emergency shelter. Maltese law offered victims a two-month reflection period to recover and contemplate cooperation with law enforcement. Foreign victims who decided to assist police in prosecuting trafficking cases were entitled to a temporary residence permit, police protection, legal assistance, and the right to work. The government issued such permits to four victims during the reporting period, and the remainder of victims assisting law enforcement already had valid residence permits. Three victims filed a case against their employer for unpaid wages, which was pending as of April 2015; in the previous reporting period, no victims applied for restitution from their traffickers or from the state fund for victims of crime. Observers reported Maltese judges should be more accommodating to requests for closed hearings and video testimony to prevent re-traumatization of victims serving as witnesses. Additionally, observers found the government did not consistently provide translation services and lawyers assigned to victims lacked experience working with traumatized victims. There were no reports the government penalized victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking. However, Maltese courts have convicted some minors in prostitution in recent years, and these may have been unidentified victims of sex trafficking.
The government sustained anti-trafficking prevention efforts. The inter-ministerial anti-trafficking committee drafted and approved a 2015-2016 national action plan with input from NGOs. The committee also approved two semiannual reports monitoring the government’s anti-trafficking efforts. The government developed and distributed cards listing trafficking indicators and the national helpline number to stakeholders, tourism areas, and places frequented by migrant workers. Authorities carried out 22 inspections of clubs, massage parlors, and other businesses susceptible to sex and labor trafficking. The social welfare agency continued to run a hotline for individuals in need of social services, including trafficking victims. The government did not take measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel.