Malta is a source and destination country for women and children subjected to sex trafficking. Female sex trafficking victims originate from China, Romania, Russia, and Ukraine; women and children from Malta have also been found subjected to sex trafficking within the country. While there have been known cases of trafficking of children in Malta in the recent past, no new cases were documented in the reporting period. Forced labor victims originate from China and the Philippines. The approximately 5,000 irregular African migrants from African countries currently residing in Malta may be vulnerable to human trafficking in the country’s informal labor market. Female Filipina domestic workers and female Chinese nationals working in massage parlors represent populations vulnerable to exploitation.
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. Although the government issued identification guidelines and started to coordinate intergovernmental agreements on referring victims to care, it lacked a formal referral mechanism during the year, which impaired the government’s ability to ensure that trafficking victims were recognized and provided care. Furthermore, while the government continued to identify victims, including one victim of internal trafficking, it did not identify any child victims. The police conducted more trafficking investigations, yet the government did not convict any trafficking offenders throughout the year. Maltese authorities, with U.S. government assistance, began training police and judges working on trafficking cases, although overall training remained insufficient. The government significantly increased its budget for anti-trafficking programs and funded more training for social workers, psychologists, and other public officials. The government began developing a public awareness campaign, but it was not launched during the reporting period.
Recommendations for Malta: Strengthen efforts to identify trafficking victims proactively among vulnerable populations, particularly migrants, children, and women in prostitution; ensure implementation of formal standard operating procedures for victim referral; increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and punish trafficking offenders; continue to ensure that convicted trafficking offenders, including any officials convicted of complicity in trafficking, receive adequate punishment, including time in prison; involve NGOs and religious organizations in the development of anti-trafficking policies and procedures; publicize the support hotline more broadly as an anti-trafficking hotline; finalize and launch a public awareness campaign; ensure that victims of trafficking are not punished for acts committed as a direct result of trafficking; ensure that potential trafficking victims are not deported prior to the investigation of their trafficking cases; and establish partnerships with international organizations and NGOs in relevant source countries, as appropriate, to ensure safe and voluntary repatriation for foreign victims.
The Government of Malta demonstrated modest progress in its law enforcement efforts to address human trafficking during the reporting period. Article 248A-E of Malta’s criminal code prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons and prescribes punishments of two to nine years’ imprisonment. These prescribed penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government investigated seven new trafficking cases during the year, an increase from three cases in 2011 and no cases in 2008-2010. During the reporting period, there were two offenders prosecuted, for both sex and labor trafficking; the cases were pending before the courts at the close of the reporting period. There were no convictions in the reporting period, whereas a court convicted one trafficking offender in March 2012. The prosecution of a police officer for alleged involvement with the trafficking offender convicted in 2011 remained pending due to an appeal of the conviction. The newly established police unit on prostitution and human trafficking received training in the reporting period, although training was lacking for the general police force, as well as prosecutors and the judiciary.
The Government of Malta took steps to improve its victim protection efforts during the reporting period. The lack of a formal referral mechanism, however, continued to impair the government’s ability to ensure that trafficking victims were recognized and provided care throughout the year. In February 2013, the government’s trafficking monitoring committee endorsed written guidelines, drafted by the government with input from NGOs, for identifying victims of trafficking. At the close of the reporting period, the government was also in the process of developing guidelines that would formalize existing and new arrangements among government entities involved in victim referral.
In 2012, the government identified four trafficking victims: two male labor trafficking victims from China, one female labor and sex trafficking victim from China, and one female sex trafficking victim who was internally trafficked. This was the first instance of the government identifying a Maltese national as a trafficking victim in at least 10 years. None of the victims identified was a child, and the government has not formally identified a child victim of trafficking in at least 10 years. The government continued to assign responsibility for the care of trafficking victims and provide funding to Appogg, a government social services agency. Under the terms of a memorandum of understanding, Appogg was empowered to provide shelter, psychological care, and other services to any identified victims of trafficking. The police referred the four identified victims to Appogg; three victims declined the assistance while one victim accepted shelter. Appogg also provided shelter to two potential labor trafficking victims from the Philippines who chose not to involve the police. Persons who were provided with shelter enjoyed freedom of movement to leave the shelter and return at will.
Victims who assisted police in prosecuting trafficking cases were entitled in theory to temporary residence permits, which include the right to work, though the government did not issue such permits to victims during 2012 or during previous years. There were reports that victims lacked information on their rights and available assistance, including legal assistance. Three victims assisted law enforcement in the prosecution of alleged trafficking offenders during the reporting period. Prior to the current reporting period, and in at least one instance, police filed criminal charges against a 17-year-old girl involved in prostitution without attempting to identify indicators of human trafficking in the case. Police officers began receiving training in child victim identification during the reporting period.
The government demonstrated significant progress in advancing anti-trafficking prevention efforts. During the reporting period, the government’s anti-trafficking monitoring board issued a national action plan for January 2013 to December 2014. The government allocated the equivalent of approximately $195,000 toward its anti-trafficking activities in 2012, compared to approximately $130,000 in 2011. The government funded an international expert to train its public officials on trafficking, including social workers, psychologists, border guards, and immigration officials; as of January 2013, over 100 professionals received the training, and 300 other professionals were projected to receive training in 2013. During the reporting period, overall responsibility for anti-trafficking efforts in Malta was moved to the Office of the Prime Minister, giving the issue a higher profile. The government enhanced its transparency by issuing an annual report and quarterly updates about its anti-trafficking activities. During 2012, the government began development of public service announcements for television and radio, though they had not launched the campaign by the close of the reporting period. The government published information on signs of victimization and points of contact for assistance on the websites of a government ministry and Appogg. The government inspected at least 156 clubs and massage parlors during the reporting period to detect illegal work and potential trafficking cases; one of these ad hoc inspections resulted in the detection of three victims in a massage parlor. Appogg continued to run a social services hotline that could receive calls about human trafficking, but there was no available data indicating that the hotline received any trafficking-related calls during the reporting period. NGOs have raised concerns that the hotline was not well-publicized as a mechanism through which individuals could report cases of trafficking. The government did not report taking any specific measures to reduce the participation of Maltese nationals in child sex tourism abroad; though the Criminal Code provided penalties for child sexual tourism. The government did not take any measures during the reporting period to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.