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Macau (Tier 3)

The Government of the Macau Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity. Therefore Macau was downgraded to Tier 3. Despite the lack of significant efforts, the government took some steps to address trafficking, including investigating one potential case of trafficking, disseminating awareness-raising materials, and maintaining guidelines for victim identification and referrals to services. However, for the third consecutive year, the government did not identify or provide services to any victims, nor did it initiate any trafficking prosecutions. The government has not convicted a trafficker since 2019 and has never identified a victim of forced labor.

  • 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.
  • Ensure victims are referred to and receive protective services.
  • Provide anti-trafficking training to relevant government personnel, including to prosecutors and judges on the use of the trafficking law, ensuring an understanding that a victim’s initial consent is not seen as evidence that trafficking did not occur.
  • Develop, approve, and implement an updated anti-trafficking action plan.
  • Increase efforts to screen for and identify labor trafficking and male victims, including by 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 ensuring 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. Police investigated one potential trafficking case in 2021, an increase compared to zero investigations in 2020; however, authorities did not initiate any prosecutions or convict any traffickers. The government has not initiated any trafficking prosecutions since 2018 and has not convicted a trafficker since 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 and weakened victim identification efforts. The government did not report statistics on the number of anti-trafficking trainings for government personnel in 2021, compared to training 1,700 officials in the previous reporting period. Authorities did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of officials complicit in trafficking crimes.

The government maintained weak protection efforts, and authorities did not report identifying or providing services to any victims for the third consecutive year. 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; however, the government did not report implementing these procedures during the reporting period. The government’s victim referral process guided authorities 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 refer any victims to either shelter during the reporting period. The social welfare bureau designated shelters for adult trafficking victims and made medical care, financial assistance, counseling, legal assistance, and other services available for identified victims, but it did not provide these services to any victims. The law permitted victims to seek compensation through civil courts or to obtain restitution in criminal proceedings. The government did not report how much it allocated for victim protection services in 2021, compared to approximately 1.74 million patacas ($217,770) allocated in 2020. 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. Due to a lack of proactive identification efforts, authorities may have detained or deported some unidentified trafficking victims. The government did not report the status of a standard operating procedure—for ensuring safe repatriation of PRC national child sex trafficking victims—drafted during the previous reporting period. The law permitted migrant victims to remain in Macau temporarily and seek employment while authorities pursued cases against traffickers. In cases in which a victim faced retribution or hardship in their home country, authorities reported a policy allowed for permanent residency on the basis of “well-founded humanitarian reasons,” although no victims benefited from this policy.

Authorities decreased efforts to prevent trafficking. The interagency Human Trafficking Deterrent Measures Concern Committee, led by the security bureau, coordinated Macau’s anti-trafficking efforts, but the government did not report if the committee met or how much it allocated for its activities in 2021, compared to 3.44 million patacas ($430,540) allocated in 2020. The government disseminated television commercials, radio broadcasts, and online videos, as well as pamphlets and posters in several different languages, to raise awareness of trafficking. The government did not report holding labor rights seminars for workers in high-risk industries during the reporting period, which it had held in previous years. 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. Legislation passed in March 2021 established 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 were subject to a fine of 20,000 to 50,000 pacatas ($2,500-$6,260) and license revocation; however, the government did not report identifying any violations during the reporting period. The government adjudicated 1,758 labor dispute cases in 2021 (1,519 adjudicated in 2020) but did not report how many inspections it conducted at constructions sites or employment agencies for labor violations (72 construction sites and 209 employment agencies inspected in 2020). 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 PRC, 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, are threatened with violence, are 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, likely facilitating sex trafficking. The government’s pandemic-related mitigation efforts, including travel and quarantine restrictions, disrupted Macau’s tourism industry, and as a result, illegal activities in casinos, including commercial sex, declined compared to previous years. Migrant construction and domestic workers, primarily from mainland PRC, Indonesia, and the 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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