The government maintained victim protection efforts. The government continued to lack standard identification and referral procedures for adult trafficking victims; however, the MWFWCD’s Child Development Unit (CDU) continued to systematically employ standard referral procedures after identifying child trafficking victims. In 2019, the government identified six trafficking victims, a decrease compared with 11 victims identified in 2018. The six victims included one adult female Malagasy victim of sex trafficking, one adult male Bangladeshi victim of labor trafficking, one minor female Mauritian victim of sex trafficking, and three potential victims of child sex trafficking. The government provided medical assistance, counseling, and victim support to all six victims. The government provided shelter or referral to an NGO-run shelter to four victims. The Passport and Immigration Office (PIO) provided the Bangladeshi victim of forced labor with an extended work permit, pending the investigation and trial. The government reported supporting the repatriation of the Malagasy victim of sex trafficking to Madagascar; however, the government did not indicate what type of support it provided. A program existed to repatriate Mauritian citizens in distress abroad, but the government did not report any cases of repatriated Mauritian human trafficking victims during the reporting period.
During the reporting period, the government established its first shelter for adult trafficking victims, including male victims, and provided shelter to at least two victims; however, the government reported that operations remained limited due to the MPF’s reluctance to operate the shelter. Adult victims in the shelter had freedom of movement and were able to seek employment while staying at the shelter; however, officials required victims to inform the police of their whereabouts. Despite opening a new shelter, there continued to be no clear government agency responsible for assisting adult sex trafficking victims. At least three NGO-run shelters provided temporary housing to adult female victims. The government continued to operate a shelter for female child sex trafficking victims, which could host up to 32 children; however, it did not report the number of victims assisted at the shelter during the reporting period. Child victims could leave the shelter to attend school and received medical and psychological assistance. The government allocated 34 million Mauritian rupees ($939,230) to the National Children’s Council to manage two shelters for child abuse victims; however, only one of these shelters provided services to child trafficking victims, and the government did not disaggregate the funding between shelters. The government did not report providing funding to anti-trafficking NGOs, compared with providing 14 million Mauritian rupees ($386,740) to several anti-trafficking NGOs in 2018. There were no reports that the government inappropriately detained or penalized trafficking victims for crimes traffickers compelled them to commit; however, due to a lack of identification measures and gaps in understanding of human trafficking among some law enforcement officers, authorities may have penalized some unidentified adult victims of sex trafficking and forced labor. As in previous years, police officers generally did not screen individuals involved in commercial sex 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 commercial sex; authorities generally did not adequately screen these women to identify or provide services to potential victims of trafficking.
PIO officers continued to proactively screen migrant workers to identify potential labor trafficking victims. In prior years, NGOs reported that not all migrant workers had freedom of movement beyond work hours and many employers provided housing facilities that were comparable to compounds, with fences and security guards. Observers also previously 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 cancel their contracts and deport them. The 2009 anti-trafficking law provided victims limited legal alternatives to removal to countries in which they would face hardship. The law gave authority to the Minister of Home Affairs to allow a trafficking victim to remain in the country for up to 42 days before deportation, and issue a temporary residence permit, but only if the victim agreed to cooperate with the investigation and prosecution of the trafficking case. The law also separately allowed the Minister of Home Affairs to extend the trafficking victim’s permit on humanitarian grounds. The government did not report utilizing these law or other efforts to address abuses by employment agencies during the reporting period. The government lacked formal policies and procedures to provide protective services for and encourage trafficking victims’ participation in investigations and prosecutions. There was no witness protection program for victims, but authorities kept victims’ identities confidential during court proceedings. Courts allowed victims to provide testimony via video or written statement, and if a victim was a witness in a court case against a former employer, they could obtain employment, move freely within the country, or leave the country pending trial proceedings; however, the government did not report providing these protective measures during the reporting period. The anti-trafficking law allowed the courts to award a victim up to 500,000 Mauritian rupees ($13,810) 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.