The government decreased protection efforts. Police identified 11 foreign trafficking victims and zero Maltese victims during the reporting period, compared with 24 and 30 victims, respectively, in the two prior reporting periods. There were nine victims of labor trafficking and two victims of sex trafficking, four of whom were male and seven female. The majority of victims were from the Philippines, but there were also victims from Bangladesh, Colombia, The Gambia, and India. In 2019, the government did not identify any children or Maltese victims. Officials and NGOs continued to utilize standard operating procedures to systematically refer victims to the national social welfare agency, where all 11 victims were referred for care and provided with shelter and psycho-social assistance. The national social welfare agency continued to coordinate effectively with the police, legal aid, and health services to provide quality care to victims. Two full-time, specialized social workers at the national social welfare agency assessed the long-term needs of each victim and arranged for shelter, food, counseling, translators, and assistance with obtaining legal status and job searches, as well as medical and legal aid appointments. Victims could receive protection services, regardless of their agreement to cooperate with law enforcement. While there was no time limit for victims to access some services, such as services from social workers, their stay in shelter or safe housing could not exceed 180 days, with some exceptions. Victims had freedom of movement in government shelters, and both men and women had access to two shelters. Approximately 3,100 migrants arrived in Malta in 2019, more than three times as many compared with the 1,000 migrants in 2018, after which they were placed in one of four government-run open centers. Migrants remained vulnerable to trafficking, but the government, in cooperation with an NGO, continued to offer trafficking education sessions and screen for victims of trafficking. During the reporting period, police continued to screen for sex trafficking victims among individuals in commercial sex. In 2019, the government spent €83,400 ($93,710) on victim care, including salaries for two social workers, training, and safe housing for victims; this amount was an increase compared with €53,000 ($59,550) in 2018.
The government encouraged, but did not require, victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of their alleged traffickers. The government also provided victims with protective support, including the option to testify via video, although courts inconsistently offered it. Victims could make use of interpreters, and courts endeavored to keep their identities confidential; however, some victims reported challenges in accessing interpreters. The law provided victims a two-month reflection period to recover and contemplate cooperation with law enforcement, but the government did not report whether it provided this option to any victims during the reporting period. Foreign victims who decided to assist police in prosecuting trafficking cases were entitled to a renewable six-month temporary residence permit free of charge, police protection, legal assistance, and the right to work. The government could grant refugee status to victims as an alternative to removal to countries where they may face hardship or persecution, but it did not report providing this status to any victims during the reporting period. The government also did not report providing temporary residence permits to trafficking victims identified during the reporting period, compared with 15 provided during the previous reporting period. The government could grant compensation to victims from state funding; unlike in previous years, the government did not issue compensation to any victims during the reporting period because it received no such requests. Additionally, prosecutors could file for restitution from traffickers in criminal cases; unlike in previous years, the government did not award restitution to any victims during the reporting period.