The government demonstrated uneven anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The 2015 Trafficking in Persons Act prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes punishments of up to life imprisonment, without the option of fines. Penalties prescribed under other relevant statutes range from small fines to 14 years of imprisonment. The use of fines in lieu of imprisonment is an ineffective deterrent against trafficking crimes. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with punishment prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.
In 2016, the Malawi Police Service (MPS) reported anti-trafficking law enforcement data from seven of Malawi’s 34 district-level police stations. Officers in seven districts sent trafficking information and statistics to police headquarters every month via a text messaging application and the MPS analyzed that data to assess trafficking trends. MPS reported it arrested and prosecuted at least 30 alleged traffickers and convicted 18, a significant decrease from 68 traffickers prosecuted and 58 convicted during the previous reporting period. All cases were prosecuted under the 2015 anti-trafficking act. During the year, the courts sentenced some traffickers to 14 years imprisonment; others, however, were suspended resulting in no jail time for convicted traffickers. 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.
The MPS retained anti-trafficking training in its curricula for the Limbe, Mtakata and Mlangeni Police Training School and Zomba Police College. The Department for Immigration trained an unknown number of new immigration officers on victim identification and assistance to potential trafficking victims. A high court judge, in partnership with the Women Judges Association of Malawi, trained magistrates on the prevalence of trafficking in the country and on the 2015 anti-trafficking law with a particular focus on sentencing guidelines for offenders. In October, the Ministry of Gender and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Secretariat conducted a training for 39 law enforcement officers, including police, immigration officials, social workers, and prosecutors on the legal instruments available to counter trafficking. Despite media reports that several police, health, and immigration officials were complicit in trafficking young women to Kuwait, the government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses. In November 2016, a United States District Court for the District of Maryland issued a default judgement awarding more than $1 million in damages to a domestic worker who sued her former employer, a Malawian diplomat for trafficking; the diplomat left the United States in 2012 and remains in the Malawian Foreign Service. The government did not take any action during the reporting period to hold the diplomat accountable.