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Mozambique (Tier 2)

The Government of Mozambique 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 with the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Mozambique remained on Tier 2. These efforts included prosecuting and convicting traffickers, collaborating with international organizations to train front-line officials on trafficking, creating and strengthening cross-border reference groups, and launching an initiative to prevent trafficking in emergencies. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government did not proactively identify trafficking victims. The government did not finalize a draft national referral mechanism (NRM), which limited victims’ access to protective services and left potential victims unidentified. The government did not finalize implementing regulations and, as a result, did not operationalize the protection provisions within the 2008 anti-trafficking act. The government also did not adopt a national action plan (NAP), limiting overall anti-trafficking efforts. Mozambican officials remained without effective policies or laws that would regulate foreign labor recruiters and hold them civilly and criminally liable for fraudulent recruiting.

  • Finalize, approve, implement, and train officials to use standard operating procedures (SOPs) for victim identification and the NRM to refer all trafficking victims to appropriate care.
  • Systematically and proactively identify trafficking victims by screening vulnerable populations—including victims of child abuse, victims of trafficking by extremist groups including child soldiers, individuals in IDP and resettlement camps, and foreign nationals, such as migrants from neighboring countries and North Korean and Cuban workers—for trafficking indicators and refer them to appropriate services.
  • Vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes and sentence convicted traffickers, including complicit officials, to adequate penalties.
  • Increase provision of comprehensive services, including medical care, psycho-social counseling, and shelter, to all victims, including males and foreign nationals, and expand the availability of protective services for all victims, including long-term shelter and reintegration assistance.
  • Amend the anti-trafficking law to bring the definition of trafficking in line with the definition of trafficking under international law.
  • Finalize, adopt, and dedicate funds to implement the NAP.
  • Increase coordination among district, provincial, and national stakeholders to bolster reporting on the government’s anti-trafficking efforts.
  • Build the capacity of the labor inspectorate and the Women and Children’s Victim Assistance Units to identify potential trafficking victims, investigate trafficking cases, and refer victims to care.
  • 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.

The government maintained minimal anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The 2008 Law on Preventing and Combating the Trafficking of People criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of 16 to 20 years’ imprisonment. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Inconsistent with international law, the law did not establish the use of force, fraud, or coercion as an essential element of the crime. The government continued to work with an international organization to review draft amendments to bring the 2008 anti-trafficking law in line with international standards; however, draft amendments remained awaiting approval by various stakeholders for the third consecutive reporting period.

The government investigated two human trafficking cases in 2021, compared with six case investigations in 2020. The government prosecuted and convicted two traffickers in 2021, compared with two suspects prosecuted and one trafficker convicted of forced labor in 2020. Judges sentenced the convicted traffickers to two years and 16 years in prison, respectively. One investigation remained ongoing at the end of the reporting period. Due to conflation between migrant smuggling and human trafficking, the government may have prosecuted migrant smuggling crimes under its anti-trafficking law. With support from an international organization, the government contributed information on trafficking case investigations to a national centralized anti-trafficking data collection and reporting tool. The government reported that pandemic restrictions limited law enforcement’s ability to detect, prevent, and respond to human trafficking and collaborate with neighboring countries on cross border investigations.

Official complicity in human trafficking crimes remained a significant concern and inhibited law enforcement action during the year. An investigation by an anti-corruption NGO led the government to appoint a Commission of Inquiry and open a criminal investigation into human trafficking at Ndlavela Women’s Prison, where prison guards allegedly forced inmates through violence and intimidation to engage in commercial sex both inside and outside the prison. The Commission confirmed prison guards brought sex buyers into the prison, allegedly including high-ranking officials, but disagreed with some key details of the NGO’s report, including the claim that female inmates were removed from the prison for exploitation. Civil society expressed serious concerns about the investigation’s validity and independence, suggesting the Commission withheld details to shield government officials from liability. The government suspended prison personnel and opened a criminal investigation, which remained ongoing at the end of the reporting period. The victims interviewed reported experiencing serious psychological distress; however, the government did not report providing appropriate services to victims. Subsequent media reports alleged similar and widespread sexual abuse and potential sex trafficking of female inmates throughout the country. Similar to previous years, traffickers commonly bribed police and immigration officials to facilitate trafficking domestically and transnationally, especially to South Africa.

The government, in partnership with an international organization, trained 141 front-line officials in four provinces on draft revised SOPs for victim identification and referral and trained 30 customs and border officers and investigators on trafficking in persons, child protection, and irregular migration in Tete Province. In partnership with the Maputo and Cabo Delgado Province Reference Groups and support from an international organization, the government trained 49 individuals, including law enforcement and anti-corruption officials, religious leaders, NGO representatives, and tour operators. The government reported working with civil society to establish and strengthen existing cross-border reference groups with neighboring countries to improve coordination on law enforcement operations, prevention efforts, and victim protection. Police stations throughout the country had specialists, trained by the Office of Assistance to Women and Children Victims of Domestic Violence, available to respond and provide support to potential trafficking cases. The government continued to offer victim support in more than 215 police stations and 22 “Victims of Violence” centers throughout the country, offering temporary shelter, food, limited counseling, and monitoring following reintegration for victims of crime. The government did not, however, provide specific numbers of trafficking victims who benefited from these services for the prior two years.

The government maintained minimal victim protection efforts. The government identified 15 victims in 2021, compared with two victims identified in 2020 and 22 identified in 2019. However, all victims identified in 2021 were associated with one investigation and, for the second consecutive year, the government did not identify any victims outside those identified through law enforcement activity. The government reported voluntarily repatriating 13 of the foreign national victims identified; however, for the second consecutive year, the government did not report providing any services to victims. The government continued to lack adequate procedures to screen vulnerable populations for trafficking, including foreign migrants and child abuse victims. Additionally, front-line officials lacked a general understanding of trafficking, which hampered victim identification efforts. Officials and civil society organizations reported the actual number of trafficking victims in Mozambique was likely significantly higher than the number represented by criminal cases. Although the draft NRM and SOPs for victim identification continued to be informally distributed to officials to identify and refer victims, the government did not finalize and fully implement the NRM or SOPs for the fifth consecutive year. Observers reported the lack of a formal NRM, and SOPs hampered community-level officials’ efforts to identify victims, and many potential trafficking cases went unidentified during the reporting period. The government did not report progress in finalizing implementing regulations for trafficking victim and witness protection, hindering the government’s provision of protection services for trafficking victims for the seventh consecutive reporting period.

Despite government-provided care reportedly being available for trafficking victims, the government did not report providing these services for the past three years. The government generally relied on civil society organizations to identify victims of trafficking and refer them to care but did not report providing financial or in-kind support to such organizations. The Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Action operated three centers that could provide short-term shelter, medical and psychological care, family reunification, and legal assistance to trafficking victims; however, the government did not detail the scope of the services provided during the reporting period. The government did not have a long-term shelter for trafficking victims or an alternative for those in need of long-term shelter. While the government specified that it occasionally could provide shelter for adult male victims, it did not report providing services for adult male victims identified during the year. The anti-trafficking law required police protection for victims who participated as witnesses in criminal proceedings against traffickers, but the government did not report providing these services to any victims. Mozambican law provided for temporary residency status or legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they might face hardship or retribution, but the government did not report granting status to foreign victims during the reporting period. Authorities may have penalized trafficking victims for crimes traffickers compelled them to commit; observers reported some potential victims, particularly irregular migrants, may have been deported or remained unidentified in the law enforcement system. International organizations indicated that women and children exploited by extremist groups in Cabo Delgado province may not be appropriately screened by the government for trafficking indicators and, therefore, may not have received necessary services.

The government maintained overall efforts to prevent trafficking. The National Reference Group (NRG), under leadership of the attorney general’s office, convened regularly during the reporting period to coordinate on national anti-trafficking efforts, and members at the national, provincial, and district levels met regularly as working groups to address specific trafficking cases and concerns. The NRG established a Reference Group in Pemba district in Cabo Delgado province to prevent and respond to human trafficking. The NRG also engaged with the Ministry of Justice to push for adoption of the NAP, which remained in draft form since 2017. The NRG reported the pandemic hampered progress towards adoption of the NAP during the reporting period; the government remained without a NAP since 2012. The NRG collaborated with the Ministry of State Administration’s National Institute of Disaster Management to reduce the risks of trafficking and child labor in emergencies, such as terrorist-related conflict and natural disasters. The government did not have a dedicated budget to combat trafficking, which hindered overall anti-trafficking efforts.

The government reportedly began implementation of SOPs in IDP camps in northern and central provinces to screen for trafficking indicators. An international organization, in partnership with the government and Rwandan security forces, launched a program to strengthen the capacity of Mozambican security forces to respond to child soldiering and gender-based violence by violent extremists. The government established or expanded efforts with cross-border reference groups for improved coordination with other countries, including South Africa and Tanzania. In July 2021, the government hosted a joint webinar with the Governments of Angola and Portugal on combating human trafficking during the pandemic, which included minimizing vulnerability and strengthening cooperation. Pandemic-related restrictions on travel and in-person gatherings significantly hampered the government’s awareness-raising efforts. The government and an international organization collaborated on one awareness campaign on World Day Against Trafficking with prominent public figures to raise public awareness of trafficking in persons through television, radio, and social media.

The government did not report operating or providing support to a hotline exclusively available for adult trafficking victims; however, the government publicized two crime hotlines equipped to receive reports of human trafficking and refer victims. It was not reported if these hotlines handled trafficking-related calls during the reporting period. The government continued providing in-kind support for an NGO-run hotline that was available to report crimes against children, including trafficking, and respond to callers in local languages. In 2021, this hotline opened a new office in Cabo Delgado and received 18 reports of child trafficking and 111 reports of child labor, and it made 363 referrals to law enforcement and service providers. The government did not report opening investigations or assisting victims following these reports. The government reported training labor inspectors to screen for forced child labor during inspections; however, inspectors did not identify forced child labor during the 8,650 inspections conducted in 2021. Mozambican officials remained without effective policies or laws regulating labor recruitment and holding recruiters civilly and criminally liable for fraudulent recruiting. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to diplomats. 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 Mozambique, and traffickers exploit victims from Mozambique abroad. Forced child labor occurs in agriculture, mining, and market vending in rural areas, often with the complicity of family members. Traffickers lure voluntary migrants, especially women and girls from rural areas, from neighboring countries, such as Malawi, to cities in Mozambique, Eswatini, or South Africa with promises of employment or education, and then they exploit those victims in domestic servitude and sex trafficking. Some traditional healers target individuals with albinism, who may be vulnerable to both sex and labor trafficking. Traffickers exploit Mozambican girls in bars, roadside clubs, overnight stopping points, and restaurants along the southern transport corridor that links Maputo with Eswatini and South Africa. Traffickers in and around mining worksites in Cabo Delgado province exploit girls in sex trafficking. Increasingly, traffickers recruit women and girls via the internet with promises of employment using fake business profiles on social media, then subsequently exploit them in sex trafficking or forced labor. Child sex trafficking is prevalent in the cities of Maputo, Beira, Chimoio, Tete, and Nacala, which have highly mobile populations and large numbers of truck drivers. The government reported that the pandemic increased vulnerability to trafficking, especially for children targeted through social media.

An international organization reported there were more than 153,000 IDPs in Mozambique as a result of natural disasters, including tropical cyclones in 2019 and 2022; individuals in displacement camps or otherwise affected by cyclones were vulnerable to trafficking. Additionally, an international organization reported in February 2022 there were approximately 735,000 IDPs in northern and central Mozambique as a result of violent extremism and instability in the region; non-state armed groups exploited women and children in forced labor and sex trafficking. In addition, non-state armed groups recruited and/or used child soldiers.

Traffickers exploit Mozambican men and boys in forced labor on South African farms and mines, where victims often work for months without pay under coercive conditions before being turned over to police for deportation as undocumented migrants. Mozambican boys migrate to Eswatini to wash cars, herd livestock, and sell goods; some subsequently become victims of forced labor. Traffickers exploit Mozambican adults and girls in forced labor and sex trafficking abroad, including in Angola, Italy, Portugal, Germany, Cyprus, and Hungary. Informal networks typically are composed of Mozambican or South African traffickers. Reports allege traffickers bribe officials to move victims within the country and across national borders to South Africa and Eswatini. At a cement factory owned by a PRC-based company in Matutuine, PRC national managers subjected approximately 300 Mozambiquans to forced labor, according to media reports. Cuban medical professionals working in Mozambique may have been forced to work by the Cuban government.

U.S. Department of State

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