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MACAU: Tier 2 Watch List

The Government of the Macau Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. These efforts included training numerous police, customs, and social welfare officials; increasing funding for governmental anti-trafficking efforts; holding labor rights seminars for migrant workers vulnerable to exploitation; and enacting legislation to deter practices among employment agencies that contribute to debt-based coercion. However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity. Authorities did not identify or provide assistance to any victims for the second consecutive year, and the government did not initiate any trafficking investigations or prosecutions or convict any traffickers. The government has never identified a victim of forced labor. Therefore Macau remained on Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year.

Significantly increase proactive victim identification, especially among vulnerable populations such as migrant workers and persons in commercial sex. • Significantly increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict sex and labor traffickers, including those operating in casinos and other entertainment establishments, and sentence those convicted to significant prison terms. • Develop, approve, and implement an updated anti-trafficking action plan. • Ensure victims are referred to and receive protective services. • Provide training on the use of the trafficking law to prosecutors and judges, ensuring an understanding that a victim’s initial consent is not seen as evidence that trafficking did not occur. • Increase efforts to screen for and identify labor trafficking and male victims, including by decreasing the reliance on self-identification tools and improving victim-centered screening practices. • Amend the labor law to include protections for foreign domestic workers. • Take steps to eliminate recruitment or placement fees charged to workers by employment agencies in Macau and in their countries of origin, including by ensuing any recruitment fees are paid by employers and coordinating with migrant workers’ countries of origin.

The government maintained anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Law 6/2008 amended the penal code and criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of three to 20 years’ imprisonment, depending on the age of the victim. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Authorities did not initiate any investigations or prosecute or convict any traffickers in 2020, compared with one sex trafficking investigation, zero prosecutions, and three sex trafficking convictions in 2019. Officials reportedly believed a victims’ initial consent or “voluntary association” with a trafficker was sufficient evidence to prove a trafficking crime did not occur, which sometimes led to trafficking cases being pursued under other crimes. In previous years, the government reported victims were often unwilling to participate as witnesses in cases against their traffickers, which also affected the success of trafficking prosecutions. After an October 2019 media report documenting the prevalence of sex trafficking in nightclubs and casinos, authorities initiated an investigation into the allegations; however, the government did not report any progress in their investigation during the reporting period. As a result of a judicial assistance request, authorities investigated a report from a foreign government that suspected two of its citizens committed a trafficking crime in Macau, but they did not identify any evidence of trafficking. The government trained more than 1,700 police officers, labor department employees, social workers, and immigration officials, and it continued to include a trafficking component in mandated training for new police and customs recruits. Authorities did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of officials complicit in trafficking offenses.

The government maintained weak protection efforts, and for the second consecutive year, authorities did not identify or provide services to any victims. The government has never identified labor trafficking victims in Macau. Authorities had formal victim identification procedures, an operational referral process, and standardized screening questionnaires that could guide law enforcement, immigration, and social services personnel to screen individuals vulnerable to trafficking, including persons in commercial sex and migrant workers. Officials distributed questionnaires to suspected undocumented workers to promote self-identification but did not identify any victims of forced labor through these efforts; it was unclear if these questionnaires were an effective tool for victim identification due to their reliance on victims to self-identify. In previous reporting periods, officials referred child victims to a government-funded NGO that offered shelter, counseling, and economic and medical assistance. In 2020, the government modified its victim referral process to refer child victims to two separate government-funded NGOs, which were designated to assist victims’ depending on their country of origin; however, authorities did not report referring victims to either shelter during the reporting period. The social welfare bureau designated shelters for adult female and male trafficking victims and made medical care, financial assistance, counseling, legal assistance, and other services available for identified victims, but it did not report providing these services to any adult victims during the reporting period. The law permitted victims to seek compensation through civil courts or to obtain restitution in criminal proceedings. The government allocated approximately 1.74 million patacas ($217,770) for victim protection services, compared with 1.72 million patacas ($215,270) allocated in 2019. In addition, the government reserved a budget of 39,600 patacas ($4,960) under an agreement with an international organization for repatriation assistance, but it did not assist any victims through the agreement during the reporting period. The government operated and publicized a trafficking hotline, as well as a hotline for reporting labor exploitation, for the public and potential victims to seek assistance; nonetheless, the government did not report identifying any victims through these hotlines. There were no reports the government penalized victims for crimes their traffickers compelled them to commit; however, due to a lack of sufficient screenings, some potential victims may have remained unidentified within the law enforcement system. The approval of a standard operating procedure for ensuring safe repatriation of mainland Chinese child sex trafficking victims was delayed due to the pandemic. The law permitted migrant victims to remain in Macau temporarily and seek employment while authorities pursued cases against their traffickers. In cases in which a victim faced retribution or hardship in their home country, authorities reported a policy that provided permanent residency on the basis of “well-founded humanitarian reasons,” although no victims benefited from this policy.

The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. The interagency Human Trafficking Deterrent Measures Concern Committee, led by the security bureau, coordinated Macau’s anti-trafficking efforts. Macau did not experience resource limitations as a result of the pandemic and therefore did not divert anti-trafficking resources during the reporting period. The government allocated 3.44 million patacas ($430,540) to the committee for anti-trafficking activities in 2020, compared with 3.24 million patacas ($405,510) allocated in 2019. The government disseminated television commercials, radio broadcasts, online videos, and pamphlets and posters in several different languages to raise awareness of trafficking. The Labor Affairs Bureau (LAB) distributed a leaflet in three languages covering the prevention of forced labor in offices of the immigration department. The labor department held labor rights seminars for the hotel and construction industries, and it co-hosted seminars with an NGO and a foreign consulate for migrant workers. In addition, the government held awareness seminars for potential workers in the mainland Chinese city Zhuhai, which borders Macau. Standard labor laws did not apply to domestic workers, and while there was a required minimum income threshold for employers to be able to sustain at least a 3,000 patacas ($375) monthly wage, there was no minimum wage for foreign domestic workers, a situation which may have increased their vulnerability to trafficking. During the reporting period, the government amended the law regulating the hiring of migrant workers to ban migrants from seeking employment in Macau while under a tourist visa. While some observers expected this change to reduce recruitment practices that led to worker exploitation, others noted it may increase costs for migrant workers to come to Macau and thereby increase their risk of facing debt-based coercion. Separately, the legislative assembly passed legislation that became effective in March 2021 and established new regulations for employment agencies, such as limiting the amount of fees agencies could charge migrant workers to 50 percent of the first months’ salary and prohibiting the withholding of workers’ identity documents or other personal belongings. Violations of the law were subject to a fine of 20,000 to 50,000 pacatas ($2,500-$6,260) and license revocation. The labor department held three orientation meetings covering the new legislation with employment agency operators. LAB adjudicated 1,519 labor dispute cases and conducted inspections at 72 construction sites and 209 employment agencies for labor violations. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or provide anti-trafficking training to its personnel posted overseas.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit foreign victims in Macau. Traffickers recruit victims, primarily from mainland China, Russia, and Southeast Asia, using false advertisements for jobs, such as singing and modeling or work in casinos. Adult and child victims are compelled into commercial sex in massage parlors, illegal brothels, nightclubs, entertainment establishments in casinos, hotels, and private homes, where they are closely monitored, threatened with violence, forced to work long hours, and sometimes have their identity documents confiscated. Casinos and other entertainment establishments reportedly allow staff to partner with criminal networks to allow illegal commercial sex activities within their establishments, which likely facilitated sex trafficking. The government’s pandemic-related mitigation efforts, including travel and quarantine restrictions, disrupted Macau’s tourism industry; as a result, illegal activities in casinos, including commercial sex, declined in 2020. Migrant construction and domestic workers, primarily from mainland China, Indonesia, and Philippines, may be vulnerable to forced labor in Macau. Some employment agencies overcharge workers recruitment fees of approximately two to three months’ salary and withhold workers’ passports, potentially leading to debt-based coercion. Some brokers bring migrant workers to Macau to renew work visas for other countries while restricting their movement and withholding their passports.

U.S. Department of State

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