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The Government of Mauritius does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Mauritius remained on Tier 2. These efforts included identifying more trafficking victims; providing protective services to all identified child victims; and conducting nationwide campaigns to raise awareness of trafficking. The government also increased efforts to screen vulnerable populations, including migrants traveling alone and victims of crimes, for trafficking indicators and initiated two investigations involving adult sex trafficking of foreign nationals; in previous years, the government regularly deported potential victims without screening for trafficking indicators. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government continued to lack standard operating procedures to identify and refer adult victims to comprehensive protection services and did not designate a leading agency to address adult sex trafficking, hindering overall coordination and provision of adequate protection services to adult victims. The absence of a victim care policy for adult trafficking victims led to ad hoc assistance, a lack of victim-centered approaches, and potential re-traumatization of victims, such as the government denying foreign victims’ request for repatriation and requiring them to remain in the country until it completed ongoing investigations. The Inter-Ministerial Committee on Trafficking in Persons remained inactive for the second consecutive year, and the government did not adopt a national action plan for the seventh consecutive year, hampering government-wide efforts to combat trafficking.

Vigorously increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and sentence convicted traffickers penalties as prescribed by the 2009 anti-trafficking law. • Improve comprehensive protection services for adult trafficking victims by developing and implementing standardized procedures for proactive victim identification and referral to protective services—especially among vulnerable populations, including individuals in commercial sex and migrant workers, such as Bangladeshi, Indian, and North Korean workers—and by ensuring provision of adequate assistance once identified regardless of their immigration status or willingness to participate in investigations and court proceedings of their traffickers. • Finalize, adopt, and allocate funding to implement the national action plan to combat trafficking. • Implement and consistently enforce strong regulations and oversight of labor recruitment companies, including eliminating recruitment fees charged to migrant workers and holding fraudulent labor recruiters criminally accountable. • Strengthen the partnership between police and prosecutors to more efficiently and effectively prosecute trafficking cases, including training on strong evidence gathering and victim-centered investigations. • Implement a witness protection program to increase protection for victims participating in criminal proceedings and prevent re-traumatization, including receiving victims’ consent to willingly participate in law enforcement procedures. • Vigilantly monitor employers of migrant workers to identify indicators of trafficking and investigate potential trafficking situations. • Increase anti-trafficking coordination efforts among government agencies to prioritize the inter-ministerial committee’s role in driving national efforts and designate a lead agency responsible for the protection of adult sex trafficking victims. • Provide specific anti-trafficking training to law enforcement officials, labor inspectors, social workers, prosecutors, and magistrates to improve case investigation and victim identification and referral to appropriate care. • Utilize the national centralized anti-trafficking data collection and reporting tool.

The government maintained anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2009 criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking of adults and children and prescribed penalties of up to 15 years’ imprisonment. In addition, the amended Child Protection Act of 2005 criminalized child sex and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to 30 years’ imprisonment. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The 2009 anti-trafficking law prohibited the recruitment of workers by using fraudulent or deceptive offers; however, the law did not extend to foreign recruiters who operated outside Mauritius.

In 2020, the government reported initiating four investigations into 11 suspects, compared with six investigations into nine suspects in 2019. Specifically, authorities conducted two adult sex trafficking investigations, one child sex trafficking investigation and one child labor trafficking investigation. All four investigations remained ongoing at the end of the reporting period. The government initiated two new prosecutions in 2020, compared with one new prosecution in 2019 and 15 prosecutions in 2018. The government reported convicting one trafficker, compared with two convictions in 2019. This conviction was of a Mauritian adult female involved in a 2014 child sex trafficking case; courts initially sentenced the trafficker to 18 months’ imprisonment but later reduced the sentence to 240 hours of community service, a common occurrence for first-time offenders of many crimes. The government did not provide updates on cases ongoing from previous reporting periods. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking. In response to the pandemic, the government issued stay-at-home orders from March 2020 to June 2020 and from March 2021 to May 2021; during this time, all police officers, including those mandated to investigate trafficking crimes, were assigned to oversee pandemic-related guidelines and procedures, such as mask wearing, curfews, social distancing, and mandatory quarantines. The government also pulled officers from their regular duties to assist in contact tracing, transporting individuals to hospitals, and providing security at quarantine locations. Due to pandemic-related restrictions on social gatherings, courts were closed for a portion of the reporting period, which exacerbated previous case backlogs prior to the pandemic. With training and support from an international organization, the government had access to a national centralized anti-trafficking data collection and reporting tool; although it was operationalized in 2019, government use of the tool remained limited in 2020.

The Mauritius Police Force (MPF) maintained an ad hoc internal coordination committee to combat trafficking, as well as a “human rights desk,” which employed two police officers trained on trafficking crimes that served as a resource for other police units. In 2020, the Mauritius Police Training School provided anti-trafficking courses to 309 new law enforcement officers, compared with 400 officers trained in 2019. The police school also reported training 66 mid-level officers on trafficking during the reporting period. Despite these training efforts, some law enforcement officers continued to lack an understanding of the anti-trafficking law. Similar to previous years, proper investigations, including collection of evidence and adequate witness testimony, remained difficult for law enforcement to conduct, often leading to lengthy and poor investigations and prosecutions. While law enforcement and prosecutors reported continued case conferencing, coordination required further improvement; additionally, the judicial process continued to be prohibitively long—frequently many years—which at times dissuaded victims from seeking legal redress through civil suits.

The government increased efforts to identify trafficking victims, while protection services remained inadequate, especially for adult trafficking victims. In 2020, the government identified 18 trafficking victims, compared with six victims identified in 2019. The 18 victims included 15 adult female Malagasy victims and one adult female Mauritian victim of sex trafficking, one Mauritian girl exploited in sex trafficking, and one Mauritian boy exploited in forced labor. The government did not report identifying any adult victims of labor trafficking during the reporting period, despite migrant workers’ continued vulnerability to trafficking. The government continued to lack standard identification and referral procedures for adult trafficking victims; however, the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development, and Family Welfare (MWFWCD’s) Child Development Unit (CDU) systematically employed standard referral procedures after identifying child trafficking victims. The government provided medical assistance and counseling to the two child victims and short-term shelter to one child victim. The absence of a victim care policy for adult trafficking victims led to ad hoc assistance, a lack of victim-centered approaches, and potential re-traumatization of victims. The government referred all 16 adult victims to NGO-run shelters for women in distress, victims of domestic violence, or adults involved in commercial sex with drug addictions, where the NGOs provided shelter, medical assistance, and psychosocial services. The government did not allow some victims to leave the NGO shelters unchaperoned or seek work opportunities due to ongoing investigations. Additionally, the government did not initially approve the Malagasy victims’ request for repatriation, requiring them to participate in investigations before returning home; police requested a court to require the victims to stay in the country while their cases were under investigation, which the court approved. The government reported supporting the repatriation of one trafficking victim, the same number as the previous reporting period. A program existed to repatriate Mauritian citizens in distress abroad, but the government has never reported any cases of repatriated Mauritian human trafficking victims.

The government determined that its first shelter for adult trafficking victims, established in 2019, would only accommodate male victims; however, it did not identify any adult male victims during the reporting period and did not provide services to any other victims at the shelter, although it was reportedly operational. The government continued to operate a shelter for female child sex trafficking victims that could host up to 32 children. Officials reported providing services to 34 children at the shelter during the reporting period, compared with an unreported number for the last four years. Child victims could leave the shelter to attend school and received medical and psychological assistance. The government allocated 11 million Mauritian rupees ($278,130) to the shelter in 2020; it did not report providing funding to shelters in 2019. There were no reports the government inappropriately detained or penalized trafficking victims for crimes traffickers compelled them to commit, and the government reportedly began screening all victims of crime for trafficking indicators during the reporting period; 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. In previous years, immigration officials often refused entry to single, Malagasy women traveling alone with small amounts of money and attempting to enter the country on tourist visas on the suspicion they were coming to Mauritius to engage in commercial sex.

The 2009 anti-trafficking law provided victims limited legal alternatives to removal to countries in which they would face hardship. The law authorized the Minister of Home Affairs to allow a foreign trafficking victim to remain in the country for up to 42 days before deportation and to issue a temporary residence permit 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, but the government did not report providing these services 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 ($12,640) in restitution from the convicted trafficker; however, courts did not award 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 no victims filed such suits.

The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. The Prime Minister’s Office led government anti-trafficking efforts. The Inter-Ministerial Committee on Trafficking in Persons, chaired by the attorney general’s office and designed to coordinate interagency policies to combat trafficking, remained inactive since 2019, hampering government-wide efforts to combat trafficking. The National Steering Committee on Trafficking in Persons, a working-level technical committee under the high-level inter-ministerial committee, was designated to drive daily operations on anti-trafficking efforts and met twice during the reporting period, compared with being inactive the prior reporting period. The MWFWCD, including the National Children’s Council and the CDU, led government efforts to combat child trafficking; there continued to be confusion within the government on which department was responsible for addressing adult sex trafficking. The government has not had a national action plan since 2013, which continued to hinder progress among various agencies mandated to work on anti-trafficking efforts. The MWFWCD continued to operate a 24-hour hotline to report child and sexual abuse cases, but it did not report call data related to trafficking during the reporting period. Police and the MWFWCD continued to conduct awareness-raising campaigns targeting elementary and high school students, parents, teachers, senior citizens, and tourism stakeholders through seminars, posters, and radio and television talk shows. The CPU reported conducting 345 awareness programs in schools and community centers for approximately 27,000 people, compared with 14,000 individuals reached in 2019.

In partnership with foreign governments, the government continued to produce and distribute migrant worker rights brochures, translated into seven languages, to all foreign workers upon arrival to Mauritius. In response to the pandemic, the government closed the country’s borders from March to June 2020 and from March to May 2021; during these lockdowns, the Ministry of Labor (MOL) extended the work visas of migrant workers who had reached the end of their stay and allowed migrant workers employed by companies that permanently closed to transition to other jobs. The MOL conducted 15,368 individual sessions to sensitize migrant workers of their rights, including producing relevant documents in the native language of the migrant workers, an increase compared with conducting 1,198 sessions in 2019. The MOL’s Special Migrant Workers Unit, responsible for monitoring and protecting all migrant workers and conducting routine inspections of their employment sites, responded to 375 complaints from migrant workers, compared with 457 in the previous reporting period; however, the MOL did not report identifying any trafficking victims during these inspections or reporting any potential violations for further investigation. Although the MOL was required to approve all employment contracts before migrant workers entered the country, some migrant workers reportedly continued to enter the country with contracts that were incomplete or had not been translated into languages the workers could read. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Mauritius. Peers, significant others, family members, or businessmen offering other forms of employment exploit girls from across the country in child sex trafficking. Taxi drivers transport child sex traffickers to their victims with whom they engage in commercial sex acts; taxi drivers also transport victims to traffickers. Traffickers exploit girls from poor neighborhoods, an especially vulnerable population, in sex trafficking. Increasingly, guesthouse owners exploit Malagasy women, recruited under false pretenses of employment or tourism, in sex trafficking. Traffickers may also exploit children in sex trafficking on Rodrigues Island, an autonomous territory of Mauritius. An international organization reported that Russian traffickers or other criminal networks in Mauritius may recruit Ukrainian women to move to Mauritius, under the guise of a marriage agency, then subsequently exploit them in sex trafficking. Traffickers exploit Malagasy women who transit Mauritius in forced labor, primarily in domestic servitude, and sex trafficking in the Middle East. Mauritius’ manufacturing and construction sectors employ approximately 45,000 foreign migrant workers from Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, China, and Madagascar, some of whom traffickers subject to forced labor. North Korean nationals working in Mauritius may have been forced to work by the North Korean government. Employers operating small- and medium-sized businesses employ migrant workers, primarily from Bangladesh, who have been recruited through private recruitment intermediaries, usually former migrant workers now operating as recruiting agents in their country of origin; labor trafficking cases are more common in these enterprises than in larger businesses, which recruit directly without the use of intermediaries. Despite Mauritian law prohibiting the practice, employers routinely retain migrant workers’ passports to prevent them from changing jobs, enhancing the vulnerability to forced labor.

U.S. Department of State

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