MALAWI: Tier 2 Watch List

The Government of Malawi does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. These efforts included prosecuting and convicting traffickers and identifying trafficking victims. It coordinated with a foreign government to repatriate victims. The government formally expanded the agencies with authority to enforce the anti-trafficking law, and the National Coordination Committee met once during the reporting period. The government launched the first district-level anti-trafficking coordination structure in Mchinji, a district bordering Zambia where trafficking risks are high. However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. Credible reports alleged law enforcement officers were complicit in sex trafficking, including coercing individuals in prostitution and child sex trafficking victims to perform sex acts under threat of arrest. The government did not investigate or hold any complicit officials criminally accountable despite these credible allegations and several past cases of Malawian diplomats, police, health, and immigration officials engaged in trafficking abroad. The government did not report referring or otherwise providing protective services to any trafficking victims. Therefore Malawi was downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List.

PRIORITIZED RECOMMENDATIONS

Vigorously prosecute sex and labor traffickers and appropriately sentence convicted traffickers under the 2015 law, including government officials complicit in such crimes. • Improve and expand the collection of prosecution and victim protection data for trafficking cases. • Develop formal guidelines to identify trafficking victims, especially among vulnerable populations, ensure victims are protected from further exploitation, and 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. • Support training and increase funding for judges, prosecutors, labor inspectors, and police to identify, investigate, and prosecute trafficking crimes. • Enter lists of shelters for trafficking victims in the official gazette in order for the law to be fully operational. • Increase awareness and monitoring of trafficking crimes, as well as efforts to identify traffickers and victims at border crossings and internal police checkpoints.

PROSECUTION

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.

PROTECTION

The government decreased protection efforts and did not adequately protect victims of trafficking. The government continued to lack systematic procedures for the proactive identification of victims and their referral to care and relied largely on NGOs to provide long-term protective services. The government identified 132 trafficking victims, a slight increase from 121 identified during the previous reporting period. However, the government did not provide any information about victims identified or whether these victims were referred to or received protective services. In 2017, the government launched an anti-trafficking fund and allocated 150 million Malawian kwacha ($204,640) to the fund in April 2018. While the funds were intended, among other things, to finance delivery of protective services, shelter refurbishment and repatriation, the government did not disburse any funds for those activities. The government 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, which was operated by an international NGO. 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; however, it is unclear if any trafficking victims used these services during the reporting period. The center remained chronically underfunded and, in previous years, poor conditions reportedly led some child sex trafficking victims to leave the shelter and return to their traffickers. The lack of adequate and sustained assistance left victims vulnerable to re-trafficking.

Some of the approximately 300 police sub-stations at the village 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 varied throughout the country. One NGO reported concerns about the failure of the VSUs to adequately provide for the needs of sex trafficking victims. Some foreign victims avoided these centers due to fear of deportation. Malawian law did not allow for foreign victims to receive temporary residency or other legal alternatives to removal to their countries of origin; foreign victims faced deportation unless they challenged their immigration status in court. The government coordinated with the Government of Iraq to repatriate 12 victims exploited in Erbil; however, NGOs and an international organization paid for repatriation costs as the government did not allocate resources to the anti-trafficking fund. In 2018, there were credible reports the government detained, fined, or jailed trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being subjected to trafficking. One NGO reported sex trafficking victims were sometimes treated like criminals.

PREVENTION

The government made uneven efforts to prevent trafficking. The government launched a five-year anti-trafficking national action plan in 2017; however, the objectives in the plan were not costed or prioritized and it is unclear whether the government implemented any of its activities. The National Coordination Committee, established under the anti-trafficking act that came into force in November 2015, met once during the reporting period. Members of the informal Malawi Network Against Child Trafficking, comprising government officials, NGOs, and international stakeholders, registered as an NGO but did not meet during the reporting period. The government launched the first district-level anti-trafficking coordination structure in Mchinji, a district bordering Zambia where significant numbers of Zambian and Mozambican nationals enter the country and there is a high risk of trafficking. The government continued to participate in the South African Development Community (SADC) regional data collection tool by uploading information about trafficking cases, victim and trafficker profiles, and sharing information with neighboring countries.

The government did not conduct any labor inspections for the fourth consecutive year or report efforts to identify or refer potential trafficking crimes for criminal investigation under the 2015 anti-trafficking act. Due to lack of funding, more than 60 percent of positions within the Ministry of Labor were vacant, impeding efforts to identify and penalize fraudulent labor recruitment for the second consecutive 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.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Malawi, and traffickers exploit victims from Malawi abroad. Traffickers exploit men, women, and children from Zambia, Mozambique, the Great Lakes region, and the Horn of Africa in labor and sex trafficking. Traffickers exploit most Malawian victims 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, family members, or brothel owners—typically lure children in rural areas under pretenses of employment opportunities, clothing, or lodging for which they are sometimes charged exorbitant fees, resulting in sex trafficking coerced through debts. Traffickers exploit teenage boys in forced labor on farms and young girls to sexual exploitation in nightclubs or bars. Traffickers exploit children in 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 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, Kenya, and Tanzania, as well as Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. Some young girls are drugged, gang-raped, and exploited in commercial sex. Some girls recruited for domestic service are instead forced to marry and are subsequently exploited in sex trafficking by their “husbands.” Fraudulent employment agencies lure women and girls to Gulf states where traffickers exploit them in sex and labor trafficking.

U.S. Department of State

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