The government increased efforts to identify and protect victims of sex and labor trafficking, but the availability of services for adult sex trafficking victims remained lacking. In 2018, the government identified 11 trafficking victims, including nine adult labor trafficking victims and two sex trafficking victims; this compared to five victims identified in 2017. The government provided medical assistance, counseling, and victim support to the two victims of sex trafficking. The government provided the nine adult male Bangladeshi victims of forced labor, identified in the textile industry, with new work permits without charge; police escort to their new places of employment; and translators during the investigation. However, the government did not report providing medical or psychological assistance to these victims or taking any further law enforcement actions against the trafficker. The government reported funding the repatriation of foreign labor trafficking victims, but did not report how many victims received this service during the reporting period. The CDU continued to systematically employ the standard referral procedure after identifying child trafficking victims. However, the government continued to lack standard identification and referral procedures for adult sex or labor trafficking victims and there continued to be no clear government agency responsible for assisting adult sex trafficking victims. The government continued the operation of a shelter for female child sex trafficking victims, which could host up to 32 children, but did not report how many 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 of 14 million Mauritian rupees ($409,960) for several anti-trafficking NGOs; several NGO-run daycare centers for trafficking victims; the children’s shelter; and a drop-in center, operated by a local NGO, for 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. In 2019, the government allocated 700,000 Mauritian rupees ($20,500) for an adult shelter for male and female trafficking victims; however, this shelter was not operational during the reporting period. The Passport and Immigration Office (PIO) continued to conduct raids to identify foreign persons with expired visas; and during the raids, PIO officers continued to proactively screen migrant workers to identify potential labor trafficking victims. There were no reports that the government inappropriately detained or penalized trafficking victims for crimes traffickers compelled them to commit; however, due to the lack of identification measures and gaps in understanding of human trafficking among some law enforcement officers, some adult victims of sex trafficking via forced prostitution and forced labor may have remained unidentified in the law enforcement system. For example, police officers generally did not screen women in prostitution for trafficking indicators. During the reporting period, immigration officials continued to regularly turn back single Malagasy women, traveling on their own with small amounts of money, 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. The government generally encouraged, but did not require, victim cooperation in investigations and prosecutions; however, without cooperation, there was no basis under the law for a foreign victim to remain in the country. In the prior 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 government keeps victim identities confidential. The anti-trafficking law allowed the courts to award a victim up to 500,000 Mauritian rupees ($14,640) in restitution from the convicted trafficker; however, the courts did not award any restitution to victims during the reporting period. The law also allowed victims to file civil suits against their alleged traffickers for compensation for damages exceeding the amount of restitution awarded during criminal proceedings; however, civil suits could be prohibitively expensive and lengthy and there were no reports of suits filed during the reporting period. In an effort to encourage cooperation, victims and witnesses could request police protection by contacting their local police, a service the government reported providing to nine victims during the reporting period; protection included transport and police escort to their new places of work.