The government increased victim protection efforts. Due to a lack of coordinated data collection at the national level, the government did not report comprehensive data. The government reported identifying at least 175 victims of trafficking during the reporting period, compared with at least 111 victims identified in the previous reporting period. Of the identified victims reported, 172 were female, three were male; 171 were adults, four were children; and all victims were Malagasy nationals. The government provided various forms of assistance, including medical services, psychosocial counseling, and financial support, to at least 117 trafficking victims, compared with at least 103 victims assisted last reporting period. In addition to victims identified by the government, NGOs and international organizations reported identifying and assisting at least 973 potential victims, providing them with protective services, including medical care, social reintegration assistance, and school support. The government, with the support of international organizations, repatriated 305 Malagasy women, including potential victims of trafficking, from the Middle East—176 from Kuwait, 75 from Saudi Arabia, and 54 from Lebanon—where they had been laboring in domestic work and potentially exploited in domestic servitude, compared with 68 victims repatriated from Kuwait in the previous reporting period. The government and international organizations reported all of the women became stranded abroad due to pandemic-related business closures, travel restrictions, and border closures.
The government remained without official SOPs to proactively identify trafficking victims and refer them to care; instead, there were disparate SOPs across different ministries. An international organization reported training law enforcement officials and service providers on a victim identification and referral manual; however, the manual did not include methods to proactively screen vulnerable groups to identify potential trafficking victims. The manual included a list of assistance organizations to which victims should be referred for care. The government did not distribute the manual, and officials used it only minimally outside of Antananarivo. The Central Unit of Specialized Investigation and Fight Against Documentary Fraud within the National Police reportedly developed a victim identification questionnaire for use during investigations; however, the government did not report implementing the tool during the reporting period.
The Ministry of Population (MOP), in collaboration with an international organization, continued to coordinate more than 700 child protection networks across the country to protect children from various forms of abuse and exploitation, as well as to ensure access to medical and psychological services for victims of crime, including trafficking. Due to lack of resources, only about 600 child protection networks provided basic assistance through public hospitals and health units, and most of the networks referred the victims to international organizations and NGOs for additional assistance; however, this was an increase compared with only 400 operating in the previous reporting period. Through referral from the child protection networks, an international organization assisted 876 children (487 girls and 389 boys), including victims of sexual exploitation and the worst forms of child labor, both including child trafficking. The Mitsinjo Center, a government-owned, trafficking-specific temporary shelter for repatriated adult victims, assisted one potential victim during the reporting period. Since the intended recipients of shelter at the center had to quarantine after travel during the pandemic, repatriated women, including potential trafficking victims, received shelter at a hotel paid for by international organizations. The government reported the center was instead used as emergency shelter for victims of other types of violence for most of the reporting period. Six government hospitals had “one-stop” victim support centers that offered assistance to child victims of various abuses, including sex trafficking; the one-stop support centers—located in Antananarivo, Mahajanga, Nosy Be, Toamasina, Tolagnaro, and Toliara—offered victims medical assistance, psychological support, and access to police and social workers. The government reported assisting 1,304 children (including 14 boys) at these facilities; however, the government did not report the number of identified trafficking victims assisted. The government opened and operated two new one-stop centers in Tolagnaro and Toliara during the reporting period. The MOP, in partnership with an international organization, continued to operate a foster care program for exploited children in Nosy Be; the government did not provide statistics on the number of available foster families or beneficiaries for the second consecutive reporting period. The government continued to operate and fund the Manjary Soa Center in Antananarivo, which received 30 children who had been removed from situations of forced labor and sex trafficking. This center provided vocational training or reintegration into the public school system and allowed victims to stay at the center for a whole school year. The city of Antananarivo continued to manage an emergency center for child victims of crime, including domestic servitude and forced begging victims, who were frequently referred by the Morals and Protection of Minors Police Service; the city, in partnership with an international organization, provided food, lodging, psychological and medical aid, and educational services. In November 2020, the government, in partnership with an international organization, established a second specialized center for gender-based violence victims, including trafficking victims, in Antananarivo; the MOP provided training to staff at the new shelter on trafficking victim identification. These centers provided free psychological support, medical care, and legal assistance; the government did not report the number of trafficking victims assisted during the reporting period.
The 2014 anti-trafficking law required authorities to consider legal alternatives for foreign trafficking victims who believe they may face hardship or retribution if returned to their country of origin, but the government did not report providing this protection to victims during the reporting period. There were occasional reports that the government arrested or punished trafficking victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit; police would sometimes arrest girls for prostitution without screening or identification as trafficking victims and would sometimes temporarily keep potential transnational labor trafficking victims in police stations due to a lack of alternative accommodations. Observers reported employers often sued former child domestic workers to avoid paying accumulated unpaid salaries in cases where victims may have reported their abuse; however, the government did not report investigating these incidents. To prevent retaliation from suspected traffickers, trafficking trials could be held in private or by camera for the sake of the victim or witness confidentiality and privacy; however, the government did not report doing so during the reporting period. While the 2014 anti-trafficking law entitled victims to restitution, for the seventh consecutive year, the government did not implement this provision.