MALAWI: Tier 2
Malawi is a source country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. To a lesser extent, it is a destination country for men, women, and children from Zambia, Mozambique, the Great Lakes region, and the Horn of Africa who are subjected to labor and sex trafficking, and a transit country for people from these countries exploited in South Africa. Most Malawian trafficking victims are exploited within the country, generally transported from the southern part of the country to the central and northern regions for forced labor in agriculture (predominantly the tobacco industry), goat and cattle herding, and brickmaking. Many cases of child labor external to the family involve fraudulent recruitment and physical or sexual abuse, indicative of forced labor. Traffickers—primarily facilitators or brothel owners—typically lure children from their families in rural areas under pretenses of employment opportunities, clothing, or lodging for which they are sometimes charged exorbitant fees, resulting in prostitution coerced through debts. Traffickers subject teenage boys to forced labor on farms and young girls to sexual exploitation in nightclubs or bars. Children are also subjected to forced labor in begging, small businesses, and potentially in the fishing industry; in past years, some were coerced to commit crimes. Adult tenant farmers are also vulnerable to exploitation, as they incur debts to landowners and may not receive payment during poor harvests. Malawian victims of sex and labor trafficking have been identified in Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, and Tanzania. Reports from previous years suggest young girls are drugged, gang-raped, and exploited in commercial sex. Some girls recruited for domestic service are instead forced to marry and subsequently subjected to child sex trafficking by their “husbands.”
The Government of Malawi does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Authorities retained anti-trafficking training in the police academy curricula and worked with foreign governments to repatriate 23 trafficking victims during the year. The government enacted the anti-trafficking legislation passed in the previous reporting period but did not use it to prosecute traffickers in 2015. Delays in enacting and training officials on the new anti-trafficking law inhibited its full enforcement until late in the year, resulting in an ineffective deterrence. Although Malawian authorities reported more than twice as many trafficking convictions in 2015 (58) compared with 2014 (25), the administered punishments were uneven with some receiving weak and poorly deterring sentences. The government identified approximately 197 trafficking victims, a decrease from 242 the previous year, but it did refer approximately 150 potential victims for protective services in 2015; it referred 100 in 2014. It continued to lack standardized procedures to effectively identify victims and provide them adequate protection and to rely on international organizations and NGOs to fund and implement most anti-trafficking programs.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR MALAWI:
Raise public awareness of the key provisions and fully implement the prosecution and protection provisions in the 2015 anti-trafficking legislation; vigorously prosecute and sentence both sex and labor trafficking offenses under the new law; sentence convicted traffickers to sufficiently stringent punishments, including by increasing prison sentences; support training and increase funding for judges, prosecutors, labor inspectors, and police to identify, investigate, and prosecute trafficking crimes; develop formal guidelines to identify trafficking victims, especially among vulnerable populations, and to refer them to available services; increase the availability of shelters and protection services for victims, including through in-kind or material support to NGOs for expansion of direct service provisions; improve and expand the collection of national prosecution and protection data; increase awareness and monitoring of trafficking crimes, as well as efforts to identify traffickers and victims at border crossings and internal police checkpoints; adopt a national strategy to combat trafficking that focuses on improving national-level coordination of anti-trafficking efforts across all districts; and develop and launch anti-trafficking public awareness campaigns.
The government demonstrated uneven anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Although Parliament enacted anti-trafficking legislation passed during the previous reporting period, it was not in official force until late in the year which, coupled with limited funding available for judicial and police training, partly prevented its use in prosecutions during the reporting period. The new anti-trafficking law, if fully implemented, would prohibit all forms of trafficking and prescribe punishments of up to life imprisonment, without the option of fines. During the year, the government punished traffickers with sentences of up to 16 years’ imprisonment. Fines remained an alternative punishment and an ineffective deterrent against trafficking crimes. The penalties prescribed under the various statutes that were in force prior to the November 2015 enactment of the Trafficking in Persons Act range from small fines to 14 years’ imprisonment; because of the alternative of a fine, these penalties are insufficiently stringent and not commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The Child Care, Protection, and Justice Act of 2010 prohibits child trafficking and prescribes sufficiently stringent penalties of up to life imprisonment for convicted traffickers.
In 2015, the Malawi Police Service (MPS) reported anti-trafficking law enforcement data from five of Malawi’s 34 district-level police stations. Nonetheless, poor record management and a lack of government direction contributed to inadequate tracking of investigation, prosecution, and conviction statistics nationwide. MPS reported it arrested and prosecuted at least 68 alleged traffickers and convicted 58, an increase from 25 traffickers convicted during the previous reporting period. However, given the late 2015 enactment of the anti-trafficking law, judges were limited to the provisions of laws in effect at the time. The Ministry of Home Affairs, which includes MPS and immigration officials, maintained primary responsibility for the prosecution of trafficking crimes and enforcement of trafficking laws; it did not provide complete information on prosecutions in 2015. Police from Phalombe district provided supplemental law enforcement data, including the arrest of 35 potential offenders, five of whom authorities released. Phalombe police also reported attaining five convictions, although they subsequently acquitted four of these traffickers, a reduction from 11 it achieved in total in 2014. Prison sentences in Phalombe district ranged from 18 to 24 months’ imprisonment.
The MPS retained anti-trafficking training in its curricula for the Limbe Police Training School, Mtakata Police Training School, and Police College. During the year, Malawian officials worked with the South African and Mozambican governments to repatriate 23 labor trafficking victims to their countries of origin. Despite allegations of corruption and anecdotal reports of police abusing sex trafficking victims in previous years, the government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.
The government sustained inadequate efforts to protect victims and identified fewer victims than the previous reporting period. The government continued to lack systematic procedures for the proactive identification of victims and their referral to care. Given severe resource constraints, the government relied largely on NGOs to identify victims and provide long-term care and did not provide in-kind or financial support for most NGO services, including those offered at the only dedicated shelter for trafficking victims in the country operated by an international NGO. The national government lacked comprehensive data on the number of victims it identified, referred, or assisted during the reporting period; however, MPS reported it identified at least 197 trafficking victims, a decrease from 242 identified during the previous reporting period. The government ran one social rehabilitation center in Lilongwe for vulnerable children, orphans, and child trafficking and gender-based violence victims, providing counseling and rehabilitation services. The government reported referring more than 150 potential trafficking victims to the center in 2015 compared with 100 victims in 2014. Individuals familiar with the facility described the center as chronically underfunded and unsuitable for trafficking victims, especially children; conditions at the center were so dire some child sex trafficking victims reportedly chose to leave the shelter and return to the brothels from which they had been removed. The lack of adequate and sustained assistance left victims vulnerable to re-trafficking.
Around 300 police stations at the sub-district level housed victim support units (VSUs) to respond to gender-based violence and trafficking crimes; however, the VSUs lacked capacity to respond adequately and the quality of services remained variable throughout the country. Some foreign victims avoided these centers due to fear of deportation. There was no alternative of providing foreign victims with temporary residency or other legal alternatives to their removal to their countries of origin; foreign victims faced deportation unless they challenged their immigration status in court. In 2015, there were no credible reports of trafficking victims being detained, fined, or jailed for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being subjected to trafficking; however, due to a lack of formal victim identification procedures during the reporting period, and the absence of alternatives to deportation for trafficking victims, some unidentified trafficking victims may have remained in the criminal justice system or been deported.
The government’s efforts to prevent trafficking waned due in part to an ineffective interagency process. Malawi continued to lack an anti-trafficking national action plan, as the board established to provide nationwide guidance on such efforts under the anti-trafficking legislation, which came into force in November 2015, has not yet convened. During the reporting year, the Malawi Network Against Child Trafficking, comprised of government officials, NGOs, and international stakeholders, did not hold regional-area meetings and convened only one meeting at the national level, compared with eight total meetings it held during the previous year. Most public awareness campaigns continued to be spearheaded by NGOs. During the reporting year, officials did not report conducting any labor inspections; in 2014, however, the government facilitated at least 215 child labor inspections. Due to a withdrawal of most direct budget support from bilateral and multilateral donors and lack of government funding resulting in poorly paid staff, more than 60 percent of positions within the Ministry of Labor were vacant, impeding efforts to identify and penalize fraudulent labor recruitment during the year. The government did not demonstrate efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. Malawi did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel. With support and assistance from foreign entities, the government ensured Malawian troops received anti-trafficking training prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.