Mauritius

Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Report

MAURITIUS: Tier 2

Mauritius is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Girls from all areas of the country are induced or sold into sex trafficking, often by their peers, family members, or by businessmen offering other forms of employment. Taxi drivers allegedly introduce child sex traffickers to victims with whom they engage in commercial sex acts. Girls and boys whose mothers engage in prostitution reportedly are vulnerable to sex trafficking at a young age. Small numbers of Mauritian adults have been identified as labor trafficking victims in the UK, Belgium, and Canada. Malagasy women transit Mauritius en route to employment as domestic workers in the Middle East, where many are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. In previous reporting periods, Cambodian fishermen were subjected to forced labor on foreign fishing boats in Mauritius’ territorial waters. Mauritius’ manufacturing and construction sectors employ approximately 37,000 foreign migrant workers from India, China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Madagascar, some of whom are subjected to forced labor.

The Government of Mauritius does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting period, the government increased efforts to investigate potential trafficking crimes, including launching its first potential labor trafficking investigation. The government increased efforts to identify and provide protective services for adult and child trafficking victims, including adult migrant workers. The government established an inter-ministerial committee on human trafficking, under the attorney general, and the police reestablished a steering committee on human trafficking. The government also continued to conduct public awareness campaigns and train front-line officers. However, coordination between law enforcement and prosecutors remained weak and the judicial process was slow. Law enforcement officers and prosecutors generally did not screen adult women in prostitution for trafficking indicators. Although the government increased the number of inspectors within the Ministry of Labor’s (MOL) Special Migrant Workers Unit, the number of inspections remained severely inadequate. There were no specialized shelters for adult trafficking victims, nor was there systematic provision of medical, psychological, or financial assistance for adult victims.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR MAURITIUS:

Vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish traffickers under the anti-trafficking law, including in cases involving labor trafficking or forced prostitution of adults; provide specific anti-trafficking training to law enforcement officials, magistrates, prosecutors, social workers, and labor inspectors to improve case investigation and victim identification and referral to appropriate care; finalize the national action plan to combat trafficking, allocate sufficient funding to its implementation, and ensure clear roles and responsibilities in its implementation; increase the number of labor inspectors responsible for monitoring the employment of migrant workers and the corresponding number of inspections; conduct a national awareness campaign on all forms of trafficking; establish procedures to guide officials in proactive victim identification among at-risk populations, including women in prostitution and migrant workers; and increase coordination among law enforcement entities, NGOs, and international organizations on cases involving foreign victims.

PROSECUTION

The government increased anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. The Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2009 prohibits all forms of trafficking of adults and children, prescribing penalties of up to 15 years’ imprisonment for convicted offenders. The Child Protection Act of 2005 prohibits all forms of child trafficking and the Judicial Provisions Act of 2008 prescribes punishment for child trafficking offenses of up to 30 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. During the reporting period, law enforcement launched six trafficking investigations but there were no prosecutions or convictions, compared with nine investigations and no prosecutions or convictions during the previous reporting period. Five of the investigations involved suspected child sex trafficking, and one involved adult sex trafficking; all remained pending at the close of the reporting period. The government has never reported any prosecutions for sex trafficking of adults. An investigation of adult sex trafficking case initiated in 2014 remained ongoing at the close of the reporting period.

One of the investigations launched during the reporting period included the government’s first investigation of a potential labor trafficking crime in Mauritius, which involved a recruitment agency suspected of fraudulent recruitment and forced labor of two Bangladeshi men in the agricultural sector. The investigation remained ongoing at the close of the reporting period. While law enforcement supported the rescue of one adult female Bangladeshi victim of domestic servitude, the government did not initiate an investigation against her alleged traffickers and permitted the traffickers to buy the victim a return ticket to Bangladesh. Historically, the MOL has addressed potential labor trafficking cases through arbitration and mediation, rather than criminal investigation and prosecution, allowing traffickers to repeatedly commit trafficking offenses and face only administrative penalties. The government has never convicted any suspected labor traffickers. The government made no efforts to investigate or prosecute any employers for passport withholding during the reporting period, although the practice is illegal; an NGO reported employers routinely confiscated migrant workers’ passports.

In January 2016, the police, in collaboration with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, trained senior police officers on the difference between trafficking and sexual assault. During this half-day workshop, 41 sub-divisional commanders and station commanders received a refresher course on trafficking in persons and the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The training included provisions under the law and interviewing skills. In January 2016, the government, in partnership with an international organization, conducted a two-day seminar for 27 senior government representatives, prosecutors, judges, and law enforcement officers on investigating and prosecuting trafficking crimes. During the reporting period, the police continued in-house training of mid-management level police officers on human trafficking, as well as for new recruits. Coordination between law enforcement and prosecutors remained weak. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses during the reporting period.

PROTECTION

The government increased efforts to identify and protect victims of sex and labor trafficking, including adult trafficking victims. The government identified 10 child sex trafficking victims during the reporting period, an increase from two victims identified in 2014. The Minors Brigade systematically referred all identified child sex trafficking victims to the Child Development Unit of the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development, and Family Welfare for assistance. The government provided the 10 victims with medical and psychological assistance in public clinics and child welfare officers accompanied them to these clinics; police worked in conjunction with these officers to obtain statements from the children.

The government identified and provided protective services to two adult labor trafficking victims. The MOL provided shelter, food, and medical assistance for two male forced labor victims who remained under police custody. The government provided medical care to one female victim of domestic servitude and placed her in a domestic violence shelter for three months in advance of her repatriation. There was no specialized shelter for adult trafficking victims, nor was there systematic provision of medical, psychological, or financial assistance for adult victims. Due to the lack of understanding of human trafficking among some law enforcement officers, some adult victims of forced prostitution and forced labor may have been penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking. For example, law enforcement officers generally did not screen women in prostitution for trafficking indicators. During the reporting period, immigration officials regularly turned back single Malagasy women, traveling on their own, with less than 4,200 rupees ($132) who attempted to enter the country on tourist visas on the grounds that they might be coming to Mauritius to engage in prostitution; officials did not screen these women, some of whom might have been trafficking victims. The 2009 anti-trafficking law provides legal alternatives, including temporary residency, to removal to countries in which trafficking victims would face retribution or hardship.

PREVENTION

The government increased prevention efforts. The government established an inter-ministerial committee on human trafficking under the attorney general, which met twice during the reporting period, and the police re-established a steering committee on human trafficking, with a “trafficking in persons desk” serving as a focal point to coordinate the investigation of all potential trafficking cases. The police’s Family Protection Unit and the Minors Brigade continued extensive public awareness campaigns on child abuse and child rights at schools and community centers that included information on the dangers and consequences of facilitating child sex trafficking. The Ministry of Tourism and External Communication distributed pamphlets warning tourism industry operators of the consequences of engaging in or facilitating child sex trafficking. The Crime Prevention Unit distributed anti-trafficking posters to police stations, high schools, and community centers.

In December 2015, the government suspended the permit of a recruitment agency under investigation for potential trafficking. The government increased the number of inspectors within the MOL’s Special Migrant Workers Unit—responsible for monitoring and protecting all migrant workers and conducting routine inspections of their employment sites—from four to six during the reporting period; however, this number of inspectors remained severely inadequate relative to the approximately 37,000 migrant workers employed in Mauritius. The unit conducted 72 inspections, compared with 403 in the previous reporting period. Although the MOL is required to approve all employment contracts before migrant laborers enter the country, many migrant laborers reportedly entered the country with contracts that were incomplete or had not been translated into languages the workers understood. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.