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MAURITIUS: Tier 2

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. The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Mauritius remained on Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by investigating, prosecuting, and convicting more suspected traffickers, including its first conviction under the Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2009. The government increased their efforts on public awareness campaigns and continued training front-line officers. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government did not report law enforcement efforts to address the trafficking of adults and protection services for adults remained lacking, with neither specialized shelters nor systematic provision of care. Coordination between law enforcement and prosecutors remained weak and the judicial process was slow, discouraging some victims from pursuing legal redress. Efforts to identify victims decreased and, unlike last year, the government did not report investigating any employers that exhibited indicators of trafficking, such as passport retention.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR MAURITIUS

Improve protection services for adult trafficking victims by developing and implementing standardized procedures for proactive victim identification and referral to protective services, especially among at-risk populations including women in prostitution and migrant workers, and ensuring provision of adequate assistance once identified; improve coordination between law enforcement and prosecutors to decrease the length of the judicial process, including establishing a case conferencing group; continue to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish traffickers under the anti-trafficking law, including cases involving forced labor or forced prostitution of adults; empower an inter-ministerial coordination committee to address all forms of trafficking, not just child trafficking; increase monitoring of employers of migrant workers to identify and investigate indicators of trafficking; continue to provide specific anti-trafficking training to law enforcement officials and labor inspectors, social workers, prosecutors, and magistrates 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; and develop a national level centralized data collection mechanism for comprehensive statistics on law enforcement efforts and trafficking victims.

PROSECUTION

The government maintained anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2009 criminalized sex and labor trafficking of adults and children and prescribed penalties of up to 15 years imprisonment. In addition, the amended Child Protection Act of 2005 criminalized child sex and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties for child trafficking offenses of up to 15 years imprisonment. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The 2009 anti-trafficking law prohibited the recruitment of workers by using fraudulent or deceptive offers; however, the law did not extend to foreign recruiters who operated outside Mauritius.

The government had no centralized data collection mechanism, making comprehensive statistics difficult to obtain. In 2017, the government initiated four investigations and prosecuted six individuals, all for child sex trafficking; of the prosecuted individuals, all were Mauritians, except one French individual. This compared to three investigations and one prosecution in 2016. The government also continued the prosecutions of 26 suspected traffickers initiated in previous reporting periods, all of which remained ongoing at the end of the reporting period. The government reported convicting two traffickers, both for child sex trafficking, compared with zero convictions in 2016. One trafficker was convicted for ‘causing a child to be sexually abused’ under the Child Protection Act; the trafficker was sentenced to six months imprisonment. For the first time, the government convicted a trafficker for child sex trafficking under the anti-trafficking bill and prescribed a penalty of three years imprisonment. The judicial process continued to be prohibitively long, frequently many years, which could dissuade victims from seeking legal redress; lack of coordination among law enforcement and prosecutors continued to contribute to the lengthy judicial process during the reporting period. Historically, the Ministry of Labor, Industrial Relations, Employment, and Training (MOL) addressed potential labor trafficking cases through arbitration and mediation, rather than referral for criminal investigation and prosecution, allowing traffickers to repeatedly commit trafficking offenses and face only administrative penalties.

The Mauritius Police Force continued the operation of an internal coordination committee to combat trafficking and a “TIP desk” where two police officers focused on trafficking cases and could serve as a resource to other police units. During the reporting period, the Mauritius Police Training School provided anti-trafficking courses to 91 sub-inspectors and police corporals, 130 trainee police constables, and 221 police recruits, this compared to 771 trained last reporting period. The MOL conducted an in-house trafficking training for 112 labor officers and inspectors, including the Special Migrants Unit. Despite these training efforts, some law enforcement officers continued to lack an understanding of the anti-trafficking law; proper investigations, including collection of evidence and adequate witness testimony, remained difficult for law enforcement, often leading to lengthy and poor investigations and prosecutions. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking.

PROTECTION

The government maintained efforts to identify and protect victims of sex and labor trafficking, but the availability of services for adult trafficking victims remained lacking. In 2017, the government identified five trafficking victims (three child sex trafficking and two adult labor trafficking), compared with 11 victims in 2016. The government referred all victims to assistance and provided shelter, food, medical care, and arranged contact with an international organization. The government did not assist or facilitate the repatriation of any trafficking victims during the reporting period. An NGO identified at least three victims of child sex trafficking in 2017. The Child Development Unit of the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development, and Family Welfare continued to employ the standard referral procedure after identifying child trafficking victims. The government continued the operation of a shelter for girls exploited in sex trafficking, but did not report how many children it assisted during the reporting period. Child victims could leave the shelter to attend school and received medical and psychological assistance. The government continued to provide funding for several anti-trafficking NGOs, several NGO-run daycare centers for trafficking victims, and continued to fund a drop-in center, operated by a local NGO, for trafficking victims.

There were no standard identification and referral procedures for adult sex or labor trafficking victims, nor was there a clear government agency responsible for assisting adult sex trafficking victims. There was neither specialized shelter, nor systematic provision of medical, psychological, or financial assistance for adult trafficking victims; however, there were at least three NGO-run shelters female victims could utilize, but there were no shelters available for men. The Passport and Immigration Authorities (PIO) continued to conduct raids to identify foreign persons with expired visas and during the raids, PIO officers would also proactively screen migrant workers to identify potential labor trafficking victims. The government reported screening 194 migrant workers during the reporting period, and while last reporting period, the PIO identified eight labor trafficking victims, it did not report identifying any trafficking victims this reporting period. There were no reports the government arrested or punished trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. However, due to the lack of identification measures and gaps in 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, police officers generally did not screen women in prostitution for trafficking indicators. Contrastingly, immigration control at ports and the airport reportedly did screen for women who may be trafficking victims or in prostitution and turned back 287 persons after questioning them and checking an INTERPOL database. During the reporting period, immigration officials continued to regularly turn back single Malagasy women, traveling on their own, with less than 4,200 Mauritian rupees ($130) who attempted to enter the country on tourist visas on the grounds that they might be coming to Mauritius to engage in prostitution.

An NGO reported that not all migrant workers had freedom of movement beyond work hours and many employers provide housing facilities that were comparable to compounds with fences and security guards. The 2009 anti-trafficking law provided victims limited legal alternatives to removal to countries in which they would face hardship. The law allowed the Minister of Home Affairs to decide to allow a trafficking victim to remain in the country for up to 42 days before deportation, and could issue a temporary residence permit, but only if the victim agreed to cooperate with the investigation and prosecution of the trafficking case. The law allowed the Minister of Home Affairs to extend the trafficking victim’s permit on humanitarian grounds. Despite these protection provisions, in previous reporting periods, the government continued to deport some trafficking victims. The government generally encouraged, but did not require, victim cooperation in investigations and prosecutions; however, without cooperation, there is no basis under the law for a foreign victim to remain in the country. The law allowed victims to file civil suits against their alleged traffickers for restitution; however, civil suits could be prohibitively expensive and lengthy. There were no reports trafficking victims filed any civil suits during the reporting period. An NGO reported that some companies in Mauritius actively deterred and prevented migrant workers from petitioning for their rights and some companies used informants to expose the leaders of potential protests and subsequently canceled their contracts and deported them. The government did not report efforts to address these abuses by employment agencies. The anti-trafficking law allowed the court to award the victim up to 500,000 Mauritian rupees ($14,970) in compensation from the convicted; however, the government did not award any compensation to victims during the reporting period. In an effort to encourage cooperation, victims and witnesses could request police protection by contacting their local police.

PREVENTION

The government increased prevention efforts. While the government did have an inter-ministerial coordination committee to address trafficking as a whole, the committee only met once during the reporting period and there was still confusion amongst agencies which department was responsible for addressing adult trafficking. The government conducted several awareness raising campaigns during the reporting period. The Child Development Unit, in partnership with an NGO, organized awareness campaigns on commercial sexual exploitation of children and trafficking in 96 schools and reached approximately1,650 children. 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, which reached an estimated 31,540 people through more than 110 campaigns. The police conducted a variety of anti-trafficking campaigns for approximately 9,150 people. The police continued to hold the annual police security and safety exhibitions, which included presentations on anti-trafficking, reaching more than 182,320 people. The Ministry of Tourism and External Communication continued to distribute 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. The government continued to run the drop-in center that promoted its services through bumper stickers, a toll-free number, and community outreach, and a social worker continued to promote the services in communities and schools. The government did not have an anti-trafficking national action plan. The government had three different hotline numbers available to report trafficking crimes, but did not report how many trafficking victims utilized this line.

The MOL conducted nearly 603 sessions to sensitize migrant workers of their rights, including producing relevant documents in the native language of the migrant worker. The government increased the number of labor inspectors from 85 to 95 in 2017. The MOL’s Special Migrant Workers Unit—responsible for monitoring and protecting all migrant workers and conducting routine inspections of their employment sites—had nine inspectors during the reporting period. The unit conducted 872 inspections, compared to 402 in the previous reporting period; however, this number of inspections continued to remain inadequate relative to the approximately 37,000 migrant workers employed in Mauritius. Despite the illegality of passport seizure, this practice remained widespread. In 2016, the government collaborated with the Bangladeshi High Commission in Mauritius to identify and refer cases of passport retention to the PIO; however, the government did not report continuing this practice in 2017.

The government did not report suspending any labor recruitment licenses for trafficking-related crimes during the reporting period or holding any fraudulent recruitment companies criminally accountable. Although the MOL was required to approve all employment contracts before migrant laborers enter the country, some migrant laborers reportedly entered the country with contracts that were incomplete or had not been translated into languages the workers understood. The Ministry of Health was required to grant initial approval for migrant worker dormitory buildings; however, an NGO reported that subsequent periodic checks were not required, and thus many buildings have fallen into disrepair and failed to meet the minimum health and occupancy standards after the initial inspection. The government did not make any discernable efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, 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 transport child sex traffickers to their 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. Mauritius’s manufacturing and construction sectors employ approximately 37,000 foreign migrant workers from India, China, Sri Lanka, and Madagascar, with the vast majority from Bangladesh, some of whom are subjected to forced labor. Employers operating small- and medium-sized businesses employ migrant workers, mainly from Bangladesh, that have been recruited through private recruitment intermediaries, usually former migrant workers now operating as recruiting agents in their country of origin; labor trafficking cases are more common in small and medium enterprises, rather than in larger businesses that recruit directly without the use of intermediaries. Despite the illegality, employers routinely retain migrant workers’ passports to prevent them from changing jobs.

U.S. Department of State

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