The government decreased law enforcement efforts. Articles 163 and 164 of the criminal code criminalized all forms of labor and sex trafficking and prescribed penalties of eight to 25 years’ imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Law enforcement and judicial officials remained unfamiliar with trafficking crimes; thus, it was likely that officials inaccurately classified some trafficking cases as immigration or labor violations. Furthermore, the government did not collect detailed data on trafficking, and the government only collected aggregate data on vulnerable persons and not trafficking-specific data.
The government reported it investigated and detained two suspected perpetrators for alleged child sex trafficking of an Indonesian girl in June 2020; the case was ongoing at the end of the reporting period. The police also reported it apprehended two suspected perpetrators in December 2020 for alleged sex trafficking of an Indonesian woman, based on a complaint reported in a prior year; the case was also pending at the end of the reporting period. This represented a decrease from the 13 investigations the government initiated during the previous reporting period and demonstrated overall decreasing efforts since 2018. The Office of the Labor Inspector General referred a potential labor trafficking case to the police in February 2021 involving a Philippine national recruited to work in a casino where her employer withheld her pay and confiscated her passport; the case was pending police investigation at the end of the reporting period. For the second consecutive year, the government did not initiate any new prosecutions during the current reporting period; the Office of the Prosecutor General (OPG) reported that two cases first initiated in a previous reporting period remained pending. The government did not convict any traffickers during the reporting period; it last obtained a conviction in 2018. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses during the reporting period. In 2018, a district administrator was accused of raping a child sex trafficking victim and attempting to bribe her to not report the case; at the end of this reporting period, the case remained with the OPG for review while the district administrator remained in his position. In a previous reporting period, the government reported referring a case of an immigration official who allegedly facilitated labor trafficking of Bangladeshi workers to the OPG; the government did not report an update on this case. The government acknowledged possible trafficking violations in the fishing industry in Timor-Leste’s coastal waters and exclusive economic zone to the south; however, the government lacked the vessels, training, and human resources to patrol, inspect, and interdict vessels in its waters and investigate possible trafficking violations on these vessels.
Government officials reported that pandemic-related restrictions and the delayed passing of a federal budget hindered the government’s providing anti-trafficking trainings to personnel and the public during the reporting period. The Legal Training Center and the OPG reported they continued to include anti-trafficking curriculum in its training for new judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and for current members of the judiciary, but it did not confirm how many officials received this training during the reporting period. The National Police also included training on how to identify trafficking victims as part of their onboarding curriculum, but it did not report if any members received this training during the reporting period.