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Madagascar (Tier 2 Watch List)

The Government of Madagascar does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. These efforts included investigating slightly more trafficking crimes; cooperating with foreign governments on a trafficking investigation; and establishing a new mechanism for potential migrant workers from the Diana region to promote fair recruitment abroad and raise awareness of potential trafficking indicators. However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity. The government did not report prosecuting or convicting any traffickers. Despite continued reports of alleged complicity, the government did not hold any complicit officials accountable and did not investigate reports of officials facilitating child sex trafficking. The government identified the fewest number of trafficking victims since 2016 and only provided services to half of the victims identified. The government remained without official standard operating procedures (SOPs) to proactively identify trafficking victims and refer them to care. Overall efforts to address internal trafficking crimes, including domestic servitude, forced begging, and child sex trafficking, remained inadequate. The government failed to allocate adequate resources to the National Office to Combat Human Trafficking (BNLTEH) and other agencies responsible for anti-trafficking efforts and remained without a national action plan (NAP) to combat trafficking, hindering overall progress and coordination. Therefore Madagascar was downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List.

PRIORITIZED RECOMMENDATIONS:

  • Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes, including complicit officials and perpetrators of internal trafficking crimes, and adequately sentence convicted traffickers.
  • Systematically and proactively identify trafficking victims by screening for trafficking indicators among vulnerable populations, including child laborers, women exploited in commercial sex, returning Malagasy migrant workers, and People’s Republic of China (PRC) nationals employed at worksites affiliated with the PRC’s Belt and Road Initiative.
  • Refer all identified trafficking victims to appropriate protection services, including victims of internal trafficking, such as domestic servitude, forced begging, child sex trafficking, migrant workers, and PRC national overseas workers.
  • Amend the 2014 anti-trafficking law to ensure the penalties prescribed for adult sex trafficking are commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape and/or kidnapping.
  • Institutionalize the training of front-line officials on victim-centered, trauma-informed trafficking investigations and the use of SOPs for the identification and referral of victims to appropriate services.
  • Finalize, adopt, and provide appropriate funding to implement an anti-trafficking NAP.
  • Strengthen the partnership between police and prosecutors to more efficiently and effectively prosecute trafficking cases, including regular case conferencing and training on strong evidence gathering.
  • Implement and consistently enforce strong regulations and oversight of labor recruitment companies, including by eliminating recruitment fees charged to migrant workers and holding fraudulent labor recruiters criminally accountable.
  • Improve the national identification system, including establishing a database and anti-fraud features, to prevent child sex trafficking and reduce trafficking vulnerabilities of overseas Malagasy workers based on issuance of fraudulent documentation.
  • Improve nationwide data collection on anti-trafficking law enforcement and victim identification efforts, including information sharing among relevant government agencies.
  • Conduct community-level outreach campaigns to raise public awareness of all forms of trafficking, particularly child sex trafficking in tourist destinations.

PROSECUTION

The government decreased anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Law No.2014-040 criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties ranging from two to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 1 million to 10 million Malagasy ariary (MGA) ($260 to $2,560) for offenses involving an adult victim, and five to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 2 million to 20 million MGA ($510 to $5,130) for those involving a child victim. These penalties were sufficiently stringent. For offenses involving children, with respect to sex trafficking, these penalties were commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape; however, offenses involving adult sex trafficking were not commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes. The government did not make efforts to amend its law during the reporting period.

BNLTEH maintained a national database for the collection of trafficking- related information; however, not all relevant ministries regularly contributed to the national database and fewer stakeholders provided data than in previous years, causing national law enforcement statistics to remain difficult to obtain and verify. The government reported investigating 30 trafficking cases—24 for adult sex trafficking and six for unspecified exploitation—during the reporting period, compared with 24 investigations in the previous reporting period. Additionally, the government reported investigating 59 individuals for potential trafficking crimes; however, the government did not report details in these cases to determine if the crimes involved exploitation through forced labor or sex trafficking. The government did not report prosecuting or convicting any traffickers, compared with eight prosecutions and two convictions during the previous reporting period. A media outlet reported that the Anti-Corruption Court of Antananarivo heard a case involving a Malagasy national exploiting a girl in both sex trafficking and domestic servitude and that the Court of First Instance in Antananarivo heard a case involving a foreign national exploiting Malagasy women and girls in sex trafficking. An NGO reported the government prosecuted one case of child trafficking involving seven suspects in Toliara, initiated in 2020. According to the NGO, courts convicted one Malagasy national and two foreign nationals for pedophilia in this case and sentenced them to three years’ imprisonment and a 2 million MGA ($510) fine; courts acquitted the other four defendants. Malagasy authorities cooperated with the Governments of the United States and France to investigate, arrest, and initiate prosecution against a Malagasy national allegedly facilitating online sex trafficking of women and girls to foreign customers. Overall, efforts to investigate and prosecute internal trafficking crimes, including domestic servitude, forced begging, and child sex trafficking, remained inadequate compared to the scale of the problem, and officials continued to frequently conflate human trafficking and migrant smuggling.

The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking crimes; however, corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action during the year. Furthermore, procedures stating that a government official cannot be arrested without authorization from the official’s supervisor impeded holding complicit officials accountable for trafficking crimes. Observers reported a network of government officials continued to produce false identity documents used to facilitate child sex trafficking, especially in coastal areas like Nosy Be and Toliara. Observers also alleged some government officials continued to help Malagasy nationals obtain fraudulent travel documentation to circumvent a 2013 travel ban to certain Middle Eastern countries where traffickers have exploited Malagasy laborers. In previous years, judges released accused sex offenders, some of whom may have been traffickers and often were foreign citizens, allegedly at the request of senior government officials.

Due to lengthy judicial processes and a lack of implementation for victim protections in criminal proceedings, families often chose to settle conflicts, including trafficking crimes, informally through traditional means without recourse to the formal court system. Observers report victims were often reluctant to file charges due to fear of reprisals. The government, in partnership with an international organization, trained law enforcement officials on victim-centered investigation strategies in child sex trafficking cases. Despite training efforts, the government did not institutionalize anti-trafficking training, and some police, immigration officers, prosecutors, and judges continued to lack a clear understanding of trafficking, which hampered law enforcement and victim identification efforts. Coordination and information sharing between the public prosecutor’s office and police were inadequate and continued to hinder case progression. In December 2019, the government, in partnership with an international organization, approved an interagency agreement between the justice system, the national police, and the national gendarmerie to establish a protocol for effective coordination on trafficking cases; however, the different agencies had not signed the agreement and did not report cases of its implementation for the third consecutive reporting period.

PROTECTION

The government decreased 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 72 victims of trafficking, compared with 175 victims identified in the previous reporting period and the lowest number of victims identified since 2016. Of the 72 victims identified, traffickers exploited nine in forced labor, 18 in sex trafficking, and 45 in unspecified exploitation; 61 were female and 11 were male; 48 were adults, 20 were children, and the age of four victims was unknown; and all 72 victims were Malagasy. The government provided various services, including medical care and education assistance, to 37 trafficking victims, a significant decrease compared with at least 117 victims assisted last reporting period. In addition to victims identified by the government, NGOs and international organizations reported identifying and assisting at least 769 potential victims, providing them with services, including medical care, social reintegration assistance, school support, and repatriation assistance for Malagasy nationals potentially exploited in domestic servitude abroad. The government remained without official SOPs to proactively identify trafficking victims and refer them to care; instead, there were disparate SOPs across different ministries that were used to varying degrees. Government officials continued to have access to a victim identification and referral manual developed by an international organization; however, the government did not actively distribute the manual, and use of the procedures outside of Antananarivo remained minimal. The government did not proactively screen vulnerable populations, including child laborers, women exploited in commercial sex, returning Malagasy migrant workers, and foreign workers, for trafficking indicators.

The Ministry of Population (MOP), in collaboration with an international organization, continued to coordinate more than 700 child protection networks across the country to assist children following abuse and exploitation and ensure access to medical and psychological services for victims of crime, including trafficking. Due to lack of resources, only about 450 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; this was a decrease compared with 600 networks operating in the previous reporting period. Through referral from the child protection networks, an international organization assisted 630 children (361 girls and 269 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, continued to operate with a capacity to house 22 occupants; however, the government did not report the number of victims assisted at the shelter, compared with one potential victim assisted during the previous reporting period. Six government hospitals, in partnership with an international organization, maintained “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 and psychological support through social workers, and they provided access to police to file complaints. The government reported assisting 1,351 children (including 16 boys) at these facilities; however, the government did not report the number of identified trafficking victims assisted.

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 children assisted through the program for the third consecutive reporting period. The government continued to operate and fund the Manjary Soa Center in Antananarivo, which received 35 children who had been removed from situations of forced labor in domestic work or street vending. This center provided vocational training or reintegration into the public school system and allowed victims to stay at the center for one 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 government, in partnership with an international organization, provided food, lodging, psychological and medical aid, and educational services to victims; however, the government did not report the number of victims served at the center. The government, in partnership with an international organization, operated two specialized centers for gender-based violence victims, including potential trafficking victims, in Antananarivo. 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.

Due to a lack of formal identification procedures, some potential trafficking victims may have remained unidentified within the law enforcement system. Police sometimes arrested girls for “prostitution” without screening or identifying them 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; despite documenting 55 such cases where employers sued child domestic workers, the government did not report investigating these incidents for potential trafficking crimes or screening the children for trafficking indicators. To prevent retaliation from suspected traffickers, trafficking trials could be held in private or by video conference to ensure witness confidentiality and privacy; however, the government did not report doing so. While the 2014 anti-trafficking law entitled victims to restitution, for the eighth consecutive year, the government did not implement this provision. Observers reported courts in Toliara denied child sex trafficking victims’ request for compensation because the victims lacked birth certificates and national identity cards. 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.

PREVENTION

The government maintained minimal efforts to prevent trafficking. BNLTEH, under the prime minister’s office, continued to lead the government’s national anti-trafficking efforts. The 2021 federal budget legislation provided a dedicated budget of 410 million MGA ($105,070) for anti-trafficking programs led by BNLTEH; however, for the second consecutive year, the government did not disburse any funding to BNLTEH, attributing the decision to the strain on the national budget during the pandemic. The lack of funding led to the cancellation of most of BNLTEH’s planned activities. The government did not have an anti-trafficking NAP; BNLTEH finalized an updated draft NAP during the previous reporting period, which was awaiting approval by the prime minister for the second consecutive year. In partnership with international organizations, the government held awareness campaigns targeting government ministries, religious leaders, potential migrant workers, and the general public on trafficking indicators. BNLTEH maintained a hotline to report human trafficking and dedicated staff to receive incoming calls; however, calling the hotline was not free of charge, and its publicization was limited. In 2021, the hotline received 18 calls and identified two potential trafficking victims. In partnership with an international organization, the police and MOP social workers continued to operate a national toll-free hotline to report child abuse. The government reported identifying and referring to care 12 victims of child forced labor in domestic servitude from the hotline, compared with 37 victims identified in the previous reporting period. Despite the identification of potential trafficking victims through the various hotlines, the police did not initiate investigations in these cases.

A 2013 ban on migrant worker travel to Middle Eastern countries the government considered high-risk remained in place; however, illicit recruitment agencies circumvented the ban by sending workers through other African countries, including Comoros, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mauritius, and Seychelles. In an attempt to address this issue and identify agencies involved in fraudulent recruitment, the government continued its suspension of all existing accreditations for placement agencies and, thus, its prohibition of recruitment of workers for employment abroad. These prohibitions on migrant workers continued to leave Malagasy people with no legal means to travel abroad for work and, therefore, without access to protection mechanisms available through authorized travel, subsequently increasing their vulnerability to trafficking and blackmail. Suspending accreditation of placement agencies has led to employers and traffickers increasingly targeting migrant workers for blackmail or solicitation of bribes. Due to pandemic-related travel restrictions, the government suspended all commercial flights from March 2020 to November 2021; these restrictions may have exacerbated pre-existing trafficking vulnerabilities among migrant workers. The Ministry of Labor, Employment, Civil Service, and Social Laws (MOL) continued to oversee the process of migrant workers traveling to non-Gulf countries by requiring contract approval by the relevant Malagasy embassy. The MOL, in partnership with an international organization, established a new initiative in its Antsiranana regional office to provide information to Malagasy citizens in the Diana region seeking employment abroad to promote fair recruitment, including raising awareness of potential trafficking indicators.

The government maintained efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, including child sex tourism. Local officials in Toliara continued to investigate child sex tourism suspects, including those purchasing sex from children. The Ministry of Tourism (MOT), in partnership with international organizations, continued to monitor the commitment of the approximately 1,000 tourism operators in 12 regions who had previously acceded to the tourism code of conduct against commercial child sexual exploitation and sex tourism. The MOT conducted an unknown number of hotel compliance inspections to remind hotels of their obligation to display posters in their reception areas publicizing the prohibition of commercial child sexual exploitation; the government also maintained such billboards at airports as a warning for tourists. The MOT, in partnership with NGOs and an international donor, continued to disseminate pamphlets to tourists to remind them that child sex trafficking was illegal and provide steps on how to report a trafficking crime. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to diplomats.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Madagascar, and traffickers exploit victims from Madagascar abroad. Traffickers exploit Malagasy children, mostly from rural and coastal regions and from impoverished families in urban areas, in child sex trafficking and forced labor in domestic service in homes and businesses, mining, street vending, agriculture, textile factories, and fishing across the country. The prevalence of child forced begging continues to increase in Antananarivo; reports indicate that traffickers force children, including those with disabilities, to work for long hours and in dangerous conditions, frequently at the behest of their parents. Most child sex trafficking occurs in tourist destinations, urban cities, vanilla-growing regions, and around formal and informal mining sites with the involvement and encouragement of family members; however, tourist operators, hotels, taxi drivers, massage centers, and local adults involved in commercial sex also facilitate this crime. Traffickers continue to exploit girls as young as 13 years old in child sex tourism in Nosy Be, Toliara, and other coastal areas, often openly in bars, nightclubs, massage parlors, hotels, and private homes. Malagasy men exploit the majority of child sex trafficking victims. Although tourist arrivals declined during the pandemic, historically most foreign sex tourists in Madagascar are French and Italian nationals, and, to a lesser extent, other Westerners and Comorians. In coastal areas like Nosy Be, Toliara, Mahajanga, and Toamasina, parents encourage girls as young as 15 years old to become financially independent by engaging in commercial sex with foreign tourists; traffickers use this cultural norm as an opportunity to exploit girls in child sex trafficking. Traffickers fraudulently recruit some children for work in Antananarivo and Mahajanga as waitresses and masseuses before exploiting them in child sex trafficking. Traffickers continue to abuse traditional practices of arranged marriage, bride purchasing, and girl markets to exploit girls in child sex trafficking. Government officials are reportedly complicit in providing falsified national identity cards and birth certificates to traffickers that facilitate child sex trafficking in Madagascar and forced labor in domestic service of Malagasy women abroad. During the pandemic, sex traffickers increasingly exploited women and children online; in some cases, traffickers lured women from rural provinces to Antananarivo with the promise of employment, often via false job advertisements on social media, but then forced them to perform online sex acts for foreign customers. Police report traffickers are increasingly using centralized locations known as “call centers” to simultaneously exploit multiple women and girls online; traffickers regularly change the locations of “call centers” to avoid law enforcement detection. Previous reports indicated child sex trafficking of boys was becoming more prevalent. Forced labor persisted in the context of Dinas, which were informal arrangements for payment or in response to wrongdoing and a way of resolving conflicts or paying debt.

Many Malagasy women are employed as domestic workers in the PRC, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, and media sources report that informal placement agencies are still attempting to circumvent a 2013 ban against sending workers to the Middle East by routing them via Comoros, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mauritius, and Seychelles using legitimate tourist visas to avoid declaring travelers as migrant workers. Reports indicate traffickers and employers exploit Malagasy workers in Gulf States using various forms of abuse, such as physical violence, salary withholding, and confiscation of passports. An international organization reports pandemic-related restrictions abroad, particularly in Gulf states, may increase vulnerabilities to trafficking among Malagasy migrant workers due to work overload, salary reductions, job loss, and limited access to social services. Traffickers acting as agents in labor recruitment agencies send Malagasy women to the PRC with falsified identity cards, where they are exploited in forced labor in agriculture or domestic servitude. Traffickers and employers may exploit Malagasy men in forced labor in the services and construction industries in the Middle East and in domestic servitude in the PRC. PRC nationals employed in Madagascar at worksites affiliated with the PRC’s Belt and Road Initiative were vulnerable to forced labor, particularly in construction.

U.S. Department of State

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