70% budget cut ‘did not affect prevention of human trafficking’

Government reply to US report on trafficking says Malta reviewing police procedures, investing in training, and that it has raised awareness on human trafficking.

By Matthew Agius

The ministry for home affairs has claimed that a 70% budgetary cut in anti-trafficking funds has not affected the provision of services to victims of human trafficking
The ministry for home affairs has claimed that a 70% budgetary cut in anti-trafficking funds has not affected the provision of services to victims of human trafficking
In 2008, the story of a 21-year-old Swedish woman who claimed to have been held against her will and forced into prostitution in Malta made headlines in the Swedish media
In 2008, the story of a 21-year-old Swedish woman who claimed to have been held against her will and forced into prostitution in Malta made headlines in the Swedish media
Harish Daswani, 38, an Indian entrepreneur in Malta, is pleading not guilty to exploiting, threatening and trafficking Indonesian care worker Oriance Kelin, who said she was force-fed a spoonful of salt after his father complained that his food was too salty.
Harish Daswani, 38, an Indian entrepreneur in Malta, is pleading not guilty to exploiting, threatening and trafficking Indonesian care worker Oriance Kelin, who said she was force-fed a spoonful of salt after his father complained that his food was too salty.

The ministry for home affairs has claimed that a 70% budgetary cut in anti-trafficking funds has not affected the provision of services to victims of human trafficking, which were financed from allocations to the different government departments.

“In practice, [it] did not affect prevention either,” the ministry said in its official reply to the US Department of State’s annual Trafficking in People report for 2013, which had listed shortcomings in the sector, and referred to the budget cut.

“This year action is being taken in this sphere as well, including in particular through the distribution of awareness-raising material, namely cards. The original financial allocation was higher given that at the point, certain basic structures still had to be set up, such as the establishment of the Monitoring Committee, the Task Force and the first training initiatives. Now that the basic structures are in place, the financial allocations need only be such as to sustain the relevant effort,” the ministry said.

The United States report issued in June retained Malta in its Tier 2 classification in the fight against human trafficking, but the Maltese government has expressed its “continued commitment to suppress human trafficking” and provide victim assistance services, train government officials and professionals working with vulnerable persons, including Agenzija Appogg and the Agency for the Welfare of Asylum Seekers (AWAS), in order to raise awareness among their clients.

The US report had noted that although the Maltese government issued identification guidelines and started to coordinate intergovernmental agreements on referring victims to care, “it lacked a formal referral mechanism during the year, which impaired the government’s ability to ensure that trafficking victims were recognized and provided care. Furthermore, while the government continued to identify victims, including one victim of internal trafficking, it did not identify any child victims.”

In other observations, the report pointed out that although the Vice Squad received specialist training last year, training was still “lacking for the general police force, as well as

prosecutors and the judiciary”.

“The steps taken by the Government of Malta to improve its victim protection efforts during the reporting period, while welcome, were not enough.

“The lack of a formal referral mechanism, however, continued to impair the government’s ability to ensure that trafficking victims were recognized and provided care throughout the year.

“In February 2013, the government’s trafficking monitoring committee endorsed written guidelines, drafted by the government with input from NGOs, for identifying victims of trafficking. At the close of the reporting period, the government was also in the process of developing guidelines that would formalize existing and new arrangements among government entities involved in victim referral.”

In its reply to the US report, the government said that the implementation of the Second National Action Plan, approved in January “ensures the completion of tasks carried over from the First National Action Plan, further to enhancing capability at executive level through appropriate action” and implement international commitments by Malta.

The reply listed Malta’s ongoing actions in regard to the prevention of human trafficking, which includes the convening of the Human Trafficking Monitoring Committee and the Stakeholder Task Force of Trafficking in Human Beings.

Preparations for a national study on human trafficking among migrants in Malta is also underway and a set of national indicators for human trafficking have also been disseminated to the relevant stakeholders for implementation. Also in December 2013, the EU Directive on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims was transposed into national legislation, further increasing penalties in respect of human trafficking offences.

Bucking the general trend in Europe, 2013 statistics reveal a greater number of identified victims since 2003 in Malta and an increase in arraignments of such cases, mostly on charges of trafficking in human beings, keeping a brothel and living off the earnings of prostitution. 

Apart from liaising with the EU and other international bodies on this issue, as well as communicating with the US Embassy, the government said it was exchanging information and training various professionals in the area of human trafficking.

“The Ministry for Home Affairs and National Security is reviewing police procedures and sponsoring training abroad for capacity building. Other training events targeted officials working in ‘One-Stop-Shop’ community centres; over 150 professionals are reported to have undertaken this training for the benefit of victims of various forms of exploitation.”

The ministry said that a study assessing boat migrants who were trafficked before arriving in Malta, or who are vulnerable to trafficking in the future, indicated that most of them do not experience forced recruitment or conditions of dependence before landing in Malta, “and were therefore not trafficked.”

“It confirmed however, that the migrants who arrive in Malta generally did not want to come  here, wanting to leave as a matter of priority and that this fact did increase their vulnerability to exploitation,” the ministry said.

Other legal amendments, the ministry added, had bolstered measures to curb this criminal activity and to provide the appropriate tools for the police and the judiciary to suppress human trafficking in all forms.

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