[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

MALTA (TIER 2)   [Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]

Malta is a destination country for women from Russia, Ukraine, Romania, and other European countries trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. In addition, irregular migrants from African countries arrive in Malta en route to Italy and elsewhere and may be vulnerable to human trafficking.

The Government of Malta does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Malta demonstrated strong political will to combat human trafficking through several executive branch initiatives, including the development of victim assistance services, training of government officials, and expanded public awareness. There was limited visible progress on prosecution of cases and punishment of convicted trafficking offenders. Progress in the area of convictions and punishment of trafficking offenders during the next reporting period is necessary to fully comply with the minimum standards.

Recommendations for Malta: Vigorously prosecute and convict trafficking offenders; ensure convicted trafficking offenders, including officials complicit in trafficking, receive adequate punishment; continue to develop and implement procedures for identifying and caring for victims, including possible child victims, among migrants and other vulnerable population; continue to develop procedures, in consultation with international organizations or NGOs as appropriate, in relevant source countries to ensure safe, voluntary repatriation for victims; and consider raising awareness to deter the possibility of child sex tourism.

Malta demonstrated inadequate efforts to prosecute trafficking in persons offenses during the reporting period. Malta’s criminal code prohibits trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation and involuntary servitude and prescribes punishments of two to nine years’ imprisonment. These prescribed penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other grave crimes. In a 2004 case that came to trial in 2008, a Maltese woman was convicted of trafficking Russian women into forced prostitution in Malta and given a two-year suspended sentence. The ongoing cases cited in the 2008 Report, including the case of the police officer convicted in 2005 who remained out of jail pending an appeal, were slowly working their way through the Maltese legal system. In January 2009, the police trained 60 police officers in identifying and assisting trafficking victims.

Malta improved efforts to protect victims of trafficking during the reporting period. In February 2009, the Social Welfare Services Agency (Appogg) conducted a training session on victim assistance for government social workers, including those who work with the irregular migrant population. There are no NGOs in Malta specializing in assisting human trafficking victims; the government assists foreign victims through government-funded shelters that are used primarily for victims of domestic violence. An NGO assisting irregular migrants identified four potential trafficking victims in a migrant detention center. The government determined they were not trafficking victims and did not offer trafficking-specific services to them, though it released them from detention. On a case-by-case basis the government can offer legal alternatives to the removal of identified foreign trafficking victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution. There is no evidence that authorities punished victims of trafficking for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being trafficked. The government developed a formal system for referring all women in prostitution apprehended by police to government social workers, and began proactively seeking to identify victims among asylum seekers, though it did not identify any victims during the reporting period. Malta encourages victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking crimes. In 2008, the one victim referred to Maltese police by a foreign embassy was allowed to provide testimony against her trafficker through video conferencing.

The government boosted prevention activities over the last year. Appogg produced detailed brochures to raise awareness about human trafficking that included information about identifying potential victims and outlets for assistance and distributed them at health clinics, community centers, and churches. In addition, Appogg distributed these brochures in entertainment areas to target potential clients of the sex trade. Malta’s government Employment and Training Corporation conducted informational sessions within migrant detention centers to inform migrants about their rights and the process by which to attain work permits and proper employment if they are granted asylum and released. The assistant commissioner of police raised awareness of human trafficking through a television appearance on a top rated talk show in 2008. The government did not report any specific actions to reduce the possible participation of Maltese nationals in child sex tourism abroad.