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 identifying and providing services to more victims; launching an updated NAP to combat trafficking; making efforts to reduce the demand for child sex tourism; providing support for returning Malagasy migrant workers, including trafficking victims; and partnering with an international organization to conduct a monitoring visit to observe Malagasy migrant workers’ conditions in Jordan. However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity. The government investigated fewer trafficking cases and did not report prosecuting or convicting any suspected traffickers for the second consecutive year. Despite sustained concerns of official complicity in trafficking crimes, the government did not hold any complicit officials accountable or investigate reports of officials facilitating child sex trafficking within the country or labor trafficking of Malagasy workers abroad. For the third consecutive year, the government did not disburse funds allocated to the National Office to Combat Human Trafficking (BNLTEH), hindering nation-wide progress and coordination. 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 with other crimes including gender-based violence and sexual exploitation. Therefore Madagascar remained on Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year.

  • Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes, including complicit officials and perpetrators of internal trafficking crimes, and seek adequate penalties for convicted traffickers, which should involve significant prison terms.
  • 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 (BRI).
  • Refer all identified trafficking victims to appropriate protection services, including victims of internal trafficking, such as domestic servitude, forced begging, and child sex trafficking, as well as 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.
  • Disburse funding allocated for anti-trafficking activities, including for BNLTEH operations and implementation of the 2023-2025 NAP.
  • Institutionalize and expand anti-trafficking training for front-line officials on the indicators of trafficking, victim-centered and trauma-informed trafficking investigations, and the use of SOPs for the identification and referral of victims to appropriate services.
  • Strengthen the partnership between police and prosecutors to more efficiently and effectively prosecute trafficking cases, including regular case conferencing and training on proper 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.

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) ($230 to $2,295) for crimes involving an adult victim, and five to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 2 million to 20 million MGA ($460 to $4,560) for those involving a child victim. These penalties were sufficiently stringent. For crimes 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.

BNLTEH maintained a national database for the collection of trafficking-related information; however, not all relevant ministries regularly contributed to the database, causing national law enforcement statistics to remain difficult to obtain and verify. The government reported investigating 13 trafficking cases – three for sex trafficking and 10 for unspecified forms of trafficking – compared with 30 investigations in the previous reporting period. The government did not report prosecuting or convicting any suspected traffickers for the second consecutive year. A media outlet reported an Antananarivo court ordered three women to be placed in pretrial detention for exploiting Malagasy women in online sex trafficking. In 2022, the government reported the anti-corruption courts in Antananarivo and Mahajanga, whose mandate previously included trafficking cases that were transnational or involved criminal networks or fraudulent documents, no longer tried trafficking cases; instead, all trafficking cases were assigned to courts of first instance. Due to lengthy judicial processes and a lack of victim-witness assistance during criminal proceedings, families often chose to settle conflicts – including trafficking crimes – through traditional means involving informal payment or conflict resolution arrangements known as dinas, without recourse to the formal court system. Observers reported victims were often reluctant to file charges due to fear of reprisals.

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 a government official cannot be arrested without authorization from the official’s supervisor impeded holding complicit officials accountable for trafficking crimes. Observers continued to report government officials produced false identity documents used to facilitate child sex trafficking, especially in coastal tourist areas. Observers also alleged government officials continued to help Malagasy nationals obtain fraudulent travel documentation to circumvent a 2013 travel ban to certain Middle Eastern countries where traffickers exploited Malagasy laborers.

The government, in partnership with an international organization, trained a limited number of investigators on anti-trafficking laws and the cyber-crime unit on investigation strategies to combat online child sex trafficking. The government did not institutionalize anti-trafficking training, and some police, immigration officers, prosecutors, and judges continued to lack a clear understanding of human 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 2022, parliament adopted a bill authorizing judicial cooperation with the Government of Mauritius to investigate and prosecute Malagasy citizens, including those allegedly involved in trafficking crimes in Mauritius.

The government maintained 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 223 trafficking victims, compared with 72 victims identified in the previous reporting period. Unlike in prior years, authorities did not disaggregate victim identification data by type of trafficking; given the government’s tendency to conflate human trafficking with other crimes, this figure may have included victims of crimes not involving forced labor or sex trafficking. In addition to victims identified by the government, NGOs and international organizations reported identifying and assisting at least 1,457 potential victims, providing them with services, including medical care, social reintegration, education, and repatriation assistance for Malagasy nationals 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 officials 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 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 government provided assistance to 178 victims, compared with 37 victims assisted with services in 2021. The Mitsinjo Center, a government-owned, trafficking-specific temporary shelter for repatriated adult victims, continued to operate with a capacity to house 22 occupants; the government assisted 178 victims of domestic servitude at the shelter. The government provided consular assistance, including providing travel documents, and psycho-social services to Malagasy migrant workers repatriated from Gulf states and other African countries; however, the government did not report screening this population for trafficking. The Ministry of Population (MOP), in collaboration with an international organization, continued to coordinate approximately 700 child protection networks across the country to assist child victims of abuse, including trafficking, and ensure victims’ access to medical and psychological services. 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 victims to international organizations and NGOs for additional assistance. Through referral from the child protection networks, an international organization assisted 1,352 children (528 girls and 824 boys), including victims of sexual exploitation and the worst forms of child labor, both including potential child trafficking crimes. 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 provided victims access to police to file complaints. The government reported assisting 1,415 children (including 21 boys) at these facilities; however, the government did not report screening these children for trafficking indicators. The government continued to operate and fund the Manjary Soa Center in Antananarivo, which received 35 children who had been removed from situations of exploitation, including 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. The city government, in partnership with an international organization, reportedly 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. The MOP, in partnership with an international organization, continued to operate foster care programs for exploited children in Antisiranana and Nosy Be; the government did not provide the number of children assisted through the program for the fourth consecutive reporting period.

Due to a lack of formal identification procedures, authorities may have detained unidentified victims. In previous years, police sometimes arrested child sex trafficking victims without screening or identifying them as 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 reported their abuse; despite documenting cases where employers sued child victims of domestic servitude, the government did not report investigating these incidents for potential trafficking crimes or screening the children for trafficking indicators. The 2014 anti-trafficking law mandated trafficking trials be held in private, with the option for video-conferencing, to ensure witness confidentiality and privacy; however, most courts did not have adequate equipment to accommodate these procedures. While the 2014 anti-trafficking law entitled victims to restitution, for the ninth consecutive year, the government did not implement this provision. The 2014 anti-trafficking law required authorities to consider legal alternatives for foreign trafficking victims who believed they may face hardship or retribution if returned to their country of origin.

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 2022 federal budget legislation provided a dedicated budget of 410 million MGA ($98,625) for anti-trafficking programs led by BNLTEH, the same amount as in previous years; however, for the third consecutive year, the government did not disburse any funding to BNLTEH. The lack of funding led to the cancellation of most of BNLTEH’s planned activities. In December 2022, the government, in partnership with an international organization, adopted a 2023-2025 anti-trafficking NAP. In partnership with private donors and companies, the government held awareness campaigns targeting airport staff and the general public on trafficking indicators and reporting cases of child trafficking. 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. BNLTEH reported the hotline did not receive any calls, compared with 18 calls received and two potential victims identified in 2021. In partnership with an international organization, the police and MOP social workers continued to operate a national toll-free hotline to report violence against children, including trafficking crimes. The government reported identifying 12 trafficking victims via the hotline, the same number identified in the previous reporting period.

The Ministry of Labor, Employment, Civil Service, and Social Laws continued to oversee the process of migrant workers traveling to authorized destinations by coordinating with local recruiters, requiring contract approval by the relevant Malagasy embassy, and sensitizing migrant workers of their rights and potential trafficking risks prior to their departure. 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. In an attempt to address this issue and identify agencies involved in fraudulent recruitment, the government continued its suspension of most existing accreditations for recruitment agencies and, thus, its prohibition of recruitment of workers for employment in Gulf states or the Middle East. These prohibitions on migrant workers continued to leave Malagasies with no legal means to travel to Gulf states or the Middle East for work and, therefore, without access to protection mechanisms available through authorized travel; these prohibitions subsequently increased their vulnerability to trafficking. Suspending accreditation of placement agencies has led to employers and traffickers increasingly targeting migrant workers for blackmail or solicitation of bribes to facilitate irregular travel to Gulf states or the Middle East. Observers reported illicit recruitment agencies often required migrant workers to pay fees as high as the worker’s first six months’ salary to cover hiring and travel costs. In September 2022, government officials, in partnership with an international organization, traveled to Jordan to monitor the conditions of Malagasy migrant workers; the government reported providing awareness materials and renewing workers’ expired passports but did not report screening any migrants for trafficking indicators.

Labor inspectors overseeing working conditions in the country did not receive adequate training on trafficking indicators and did not report efforts to identify or report potential trafficking crimes to law enforcement. The government made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, including child sex tourism. 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 sexual exploitation of children, including child sex trafficking, in the tourism sector. In December 2022, the MOT, in partnership with international organizations and NGOs, drafted updates to the code of conduct to increase requirements for tourist operators to proactively combat child sex tourism. The MOT conducted an unreported number of hotel compliance inspections to remind hotels of their obligation to display posters in their reception areas publicizing the prohibition of commercial sexual exploitation of children, including child sex trafficking; the government also maintained such billboards at airports and construction sites. The MOT, in partnership with NGOs and an international donor, continued to disseminate pamphlets to tourists to discourage child sex tourism and provide steps on how to report a trafficking crime. The government did not report providing anti-trafficking training to its troops prior to their deployment as peacekeepers. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel.

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 labor trafficking in domestic work in homes and businesses, mining, street vending, agriculture, textile factories, and fishing across the country. Traffickers force children, including those with disabilities, to beg 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. Tourist operators, hotel employees, taxi drivers, massage parlor owners, and local adults involved in commercial sex also facilitate child sex trafficking. Traffickers continue to exploit girls and boys as young as 12 years old in child sex tourism in coastal areas and major cities, such as Antananarivo, Antsirabe, Fianarantsoa, Mahajanga, Manakara, Nosy Be, Toamasina, Toliara, and Tolagnaro, often openly in bars, nightclubs, massage parlors, hotels, and private homes. Malagasy men exploit the majority of child sex trafficking victims; however, foreign tourists, historically from France and Italy, and, to a lesser extent, other Western European countries and Comoros, exploit children in child sex tourism. Parents often encourage girls as young as 15 years old to become financially independent by dating, marrying, or engaging in commercial sex with foreign tourists; traffickers use this cultural norm as an opportunity to exploit girls 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 girls that depict them as adults; traffickers then use the falsified documents to facilitate child sex trafficking in Madagascar. Since the pandemic, sex traffickers increasingly exploit women and children online. Traffickers lure women and girls from rural provinces to Antananarivo with the promise of employment, often via false job advertisements on social media, but then force them to perform online sex acts for foreign customers. Traffickers sometimes use centralized locations known as “call centers” to simultaneously exploit multiple women and girls online and regularly change the “call center” locations to avoid law enforcement detection. NGOs report climate change, including sudden-onset disasters such as cyclones and slow-onset events like drought and rising temperatures, increased poverty, food insecurity, and loss of work in southern Madagascar; families in these vulnerable situations may exploit their children in domestic servitude or sex trafficking to supplement lost income. Labor trafficking persisted in dina judgments, primarily in agricultural work. Officials allege village leaders in northwest Madagascar compel men ages 18 to 45 years to join local vigilante groups that combat village banditry.

Many Malagasy women are employed as domestic workers in the PRC, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, and media sources report informal placement agencies circumvent the 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. Government officials in rural areas are reportedly complicit in providing falsified documents to facilitate the illicit recruitment of Malagasy women to work in Gulf states; individuals hired under fraudulent conditions are vulnerable to labor trafficking during travel and upon reaching their destination. Reports indicate traffickers and employers exploit Malagasy workers in Gulf states and the Middle East, particularly Lebanon, in domestic servitude using various forms of abuse, such as physical violence, salary withholding, and confiscation of passports. 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 BRI are vulnerable to forced labor, particularly in construction.

U.S. Department of State

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