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.