The government decreased law enforcement efforts. The 2015 Trafficking in Persons Act criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed punishments of up to 14 years’ imprisonment for offenses involving an adult victim, and up to 21 years’ imprisonment for those involving a child victim. These penalties were sufficiently stringent, and with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes, such as kidnapping. In 2018, the Malawi Police Service (MPS) reported anti-trafficking law enforcement data from seven of Malawi’s 34 district-level police stations. MPS reported it arrested 32 suspects, prosecuted at least 16 alleged traffickers, and convicted 16; this is compared with 42 suspects arrested, 26 traffickers prosecuted, and 26 convicted during the previous reporting period. The government did not report sentencing data or what type of exploitation occurred in these cases and, as the government often conflated trafficking with smuggling and irregular migration, it is unclear whether all of these cases were indeed trafficking. Widespread corruption led to minimal documentation and poor data collection on trafficking cases. Reports alleged that police and labor officials were complicit in cases where Malawians were exploited in Kuwait and Iraq during the previous reporting period. Law enforcement officers regularly failed to screen individuals engaged in commercial sex for trafficking indicators and were allegedly complicit in sex trafficking crimes by arresting and charging girls and women in prostitution if they did not provide free sexual services to the arresting officer. Furthermore, officers made no effort to discern the age of individuals in prostitution or investigate such cases as child sex trafficking crimes, despite indications children were being exploited. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which includes MPS and immigration officials, maintained primary responsibility for the prosecution of trafficking crimes and enforcement of trafficking laws. The Minister of Homeland Security designated by Gazette Notice in September 2018 all police, immigration, and labor officers as enforcement officers of the 2015 anti-trafficking act.
The Ministry of Homeland Security, in partnership with an international organization and the Malawi Network Against Trafficking in Persons, conducted a two-day training of trainers from law enforcement agencies and professional training institutions on the anti-trafficking act. The MPS retained anti-trafficking training in its curricula for the Limbe, Mtakata, and Mlangeni Police Training Schools and Zomba Police College and human trafficking was a topic of continuing education lectures. The Department for Immigration trained an unknown number of new immigration officers on victim identification and assistance to potential trafficking victims. In partnership with an international organization, the government trained an unknown number of magistrates, prosecutors, immigration officers, police investigators, police victim support officers, roadblock officers, and community policing partners. 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 former Malawian diplomat, for trafficking; the former diplomat left the United States in 2012. Nonetheless, the diplomat did not pay the outstanding judgment nor did the government report taking any further action during the reporting period to hold the diplomat accountable. The government partnered with neighboring governments and an international law enforcement organization to increase investigative capacity of law enforcement through an intelligence-driven operation. As a result, officials in two countries arrested traffickers and identified 87 victims. It is unclear if there was overlap between these cases and trafficking cases reported by the government.