Last Updated: Thursday, 31 July 2014, 17:47 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Malawi

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Malawi, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30cb19.html [accessed 1 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

MALAWI (Tier 2 Watch List)

Malawi is a source country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. To a lesser extent, Malawi is also a destination country for men, women, and children from Zambia, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe and a transit point for people from these same countries who are subjected to sex and labor trafficking in South Africa. Most Malawian trafficking victims are exploited within the country, though Malawian victims of sex and labor trafficking have also been identified in South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Europe. Within the country, children are subjected to forced labor in domestic service, cattle herding, agriculture (tobacco, tea, coffee, and sugar plantations), begging, small businesses, and coerced into the commission of crimes, including home robberies. One-third of Malawian children are involved in labor activities, with sources reporting that the majority of cases of child labor outside of the family involve fraudulent recruitment and physical or sexual abuse, conditions indicative of forced labor. Adult tenant farmers are vulnerable to exploitation as they incur debts to landowners and may not receive payment in times of poor harvest. Brothel owners or other facilitators lure girls – including primary school children – from rural areas with promises of clothing and lodging, for which they are later charged high fees, resulting in debt-bonded prostitution. Girls are recruited for domestic service, but instead are forced to marry and later forced into prostitution by their husbands. In lakeshore districts, tourists – including Europeans – purchase commercial sex from women, girls, and boys in forced prostitution. Nigerian and Tanzanian women force Malawian women and girls into prostitution in Malawi, and Nigerian syndicates are also involved in the sex trafficking of Malawians to South Africa, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Thailand, and Brazil. Italian and Mexican organized crime entities reportedly also are involved in sex trafficking between Malawi and South Africa. Traffickers target Malawian girls in secondary school for recruitment for work in neighboring countries, offering to pay their rent, but subjecting them to forced prostitution upon arrival. South African and Tanzanian long-distance truck drivers and mini-bus operators, transport these victims across porous borders by avoiding immigration checkpoints. Malawians are taken to Mozambique and Zambia for forced labor on tobacco and tea farms, to Zambia for brick-making, and to Tanzania for forced labor in the fishing industry. Anecdotal reports indicate South Asian adults and children are forced to work in hotels, shops, bakeries, and in the construction sector in Malawi.

The Government of Malawi does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these modest efforts, the government failed to demonstrate overall increasing efforts to combat trafficking during the reporting period; therefore, Malawi is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. Malawi's anti-trafficking law enforcement performance declined over the last year, with fewer trafficking offenders prosecuted than in 2010, and fewer convicted trafficking offenders punished with time in prison. Furthermore, the government did not finalize and pass anti-trafficking legislation drafted in 2009. The government continued to rely on international organizations and NGOs to fund most anti-trafficking programs, and district-level staff active on trafficking received little supervision or guidance from national coordinating bodies.

Recommendations for Malawi: Prosecute both sex and labor trafficking offenses vigorously; ensure the adequate sentencing of convicted trafficking offenders, including the increased imposition of prison sentences rather than fines; investigate and prosecute complicit officials; expand training programs for judges, prosecutors, labor inspectors, and police on identification, investigation, and prosecution of trafficking offenses under existing laws; begin the collection of national prosecution and protection data; develop a formal system to identify trafficking victims and to refer them to available services; increase the availability of accommodations and protection services for victims through financial or material support to NGOs or expansion of direct service provision; improve national-level coordination of anti-trafficking efforts across all districts; and launch anti-trafficking public awareness campaigns.

Prosecution

The Government of Malawi decreased its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the year, convicting fewer offenders than in 2010 and failing to enact anti-trafficking legislation drafted in 2009. Malawi prohibits all forms of trafficking through various laws, including the Employment Act and articles 135 through 147 and 257 through 269 of the penal code. The penalties prescribed under these various statutes range from small fines to 14 years' imprisonment; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Despite the existence of these laws, their enforcement is weak. The Child Care, Protection and Justice Act of 2010 prohibits child trafficking, prescribing penalties of life imprisonment for convicted traffickers. In January 2012, the act was published in the government's gazette and printed; however, some courts have rejected cases charged under the act since they are still without a copy of the act. Reports indicated that labor trafficking offenders were not prosecuted for a first offense; only repeat offenders were prosecuted.

Although governments in 12 of 28 districts reported investigating a total of 241 trafficking cases in 2011, specifics regarding these cases or their status were not provided. Local sources reported the convictions of one labor trafficker and three sex traffickers in 2011. Only one offender, however, received a prison sentence, while the remainder paid minimal fines. In Machinga District, the Liwonde magistrate court sentenced a convicted offender to five years' imprisonment with hard labor in 2011 for the sex trafficking of two girls from Mangochi. In October 2011 in Blantyre, authorities used the Employment Act to convict a man for the forced labor of 11 children; he received a fine equivalent to $17 and was required to pay return transport costs for the victims. The government's continued failure to seek criminal prosecution and sentencing of forced labor offenses meant there was no effective deterrent to the commission of trafficking crimes.

The government continued to train police recruits in identifying and combating human trafficking as part of its standard training curriculum at three police training schools, reaching 600 recruits during the year. In 2011, the Ministry of Gender, Child and Community Development (MGCCD) and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) trained law enforcement and social welfare officials on the child protection law. Nonetheless, police and immigration officials were complicit in trafficking crimes, with reports of court cases diverted and offenders released; however, the government did not investigate or prosecute such officials.

Protection

The Government of Malawi sustained minimal efforts to provide protection to trafficking victims during the year. The government relied largely on NGOs to identify victims and provide long-term care. In addition, the government failed to establish or employ systematic procedures for the proactive identification of victims and their referral to care. The government funded one drop-in center that provided counseling and services for victims of trafficking and gender-based violence; it is unknown whether the center assisted trafficking victims during the year. Over 100 police stations across the country housed victim support units (VSUs) to respond to gender-based violence and trafficking crimes; however, the VSUs lacked capacity to respond adequately, providing only limited counseling and, in some districts, temporary shelter to victims. Government-run hospitals provided trafficking victims with limited access to medical and psychological services; for shelter, district social welfare and child protection officers referred victims to NGO-run facilities that catered to vulnerable children and youth. The government did not provide material or financial support for these NGO services.

The national government did not provide data on the number of victims it identified, referred, or assisted during the reporting period; detailed case information provided by two districts indicates that officials, often in partnership with NGOs, identified at least 114 trafficking victims. Police, district-level social welfare officers, and child protection officers cooperated with local NGOs that coordinated and funded the rescue of trafficking victims; during the year, these partnerships resulted in the rescue of 83 children in prostitution from a brothel in Blantyre. The district social welfare office in Lilongwe – through the aforementioned social rehabilitation center – provided office space to an NGO that identified 86 child sex trafficking victims in four districts of Lilongwe in 2011. A 2011 NGO baseline survey of six districts reported that over 70 percent of victims did not receive any services after their rescue. The government did not provide foreign victims with temporary residency or other legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they would face hardship or retribution. The district social welfare office in Mangochi assisted in the repatriation of one victim. The government encouraged victims' participation in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking crimes. Law enforcement, however, generally treated persons in prostitution – including children – as criminals rather than their pimps or clients, making sex trafficking victims vulnerable to arrest; subsequent to their arrest, some police coerced them into sex acts by threatening them with charges.

Prevention

The government made minimal efforts to prevent human trafficking during the year. The majority of public awareness campaigns were coordinated at the district level with NGOs partners; national level coordinating bodies played a negligible role, failing to organize awareness activities or finalize the national plan of action drafted in the previous year. The newly reorganized Child Protection Technical Working Group included trafficking within its broad work to coordinate efforts on child protection. The Malawi Network Against Child Trafficking, which is comprised of government representatives, NGOs, and religious leaders, met quarterly and, with funding from a foreign government, organized an October 2011 workshop on best practices to combat human trafficking. In 2011 in Mangochi District, social welfare and labor officers forged partnerships with police and NGOs to train 25 peer educators in Traditional Area Chowe; this event publicized the IOM trafficking hotline in South Africa and resulted in the repatriation of one victim. State-owned radio also broadcast weekly radio programs on child labor and human trafficking led by an NGO. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts during the year, and made no efforts to address child sex tourism. The government did not provide its military personnel with anti-trafficking training prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.

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