Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 October 2014, 16:03 GMT

2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Macau

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 27 June 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Macau, 27 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e12ee6532.html [accessed 23 October 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.

Macau (Tier 2)

The Macau Special Administrative Region (MSAR) of the People's Republic of China is primarily a destination and, to a much lesser extent, a source territory for women and children subjected to sex trafficking. Victims originate primarily from the Chinese mainland, with many of them from inland Chinese provinces who travel to the border province of Guangdong in search of better employment. In the past there have also been victims from Mongolia, Vietnam, Russia, and Southeast Asia. Many trafficking victims fall prey to false advertisements for jobs in casinos and other legitimate employment in Macau, but upon arrival, are forced into prostitution. Foreign and mainland Chinese women are sometimes passed to local organized crime groups upon arrival, held captive, and forced into sexual servitude. Chinese, Russian, and Thai criminal syndicates are believed to sometimes be involved in recruiting women for Macau's commercial sex industry. Victims are sometimes confined in massage parlors and illegal brothels, where they are closely monitored, forced to work long hours, have their identity documents confiscated, and are threatened with violence; all factors that make it particularly difficult for them to seek help. Macau also has been a source territory for some women and girls who are subjected to sex trafficking elsewhere in Asia. In addition, new immigration regulations, which bar migrant workers who have been fired or quit early from obtaining another work permit for six months and impose fines on workers who overstay cancelled work permits, as well as the lack of a minimum wage for foreign workers in domestic service, could create vulnerabilities for migrant labor in Macau to forced labor. In light of these consequences for leaving employers, male and female migrant workers may feel pressure to work for undesirable employers to avoid deportation or fines of approximately $25 per day.

The MSAR does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Macau's government sustained law enforcement efforts against human trafficking and efforts to protect trafficking victims during the year. It also continued to train law enforcement and other officials in identifying and investigating trafficking in persons offenses. Nonetheless, Macau continues to lack sufficient judicial resources to investigate and prosecute a significant number of trafficking cases; as a result, many trafficking cases, including instances of forced labor, may go undetected or fail to be punished.

Recommendations for Macau: Significantly increase efforts to vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking offenders; make efforts to assess whether forced labor is occurring in Macau, particularly of migrant workers; continue to use proactive victim identification procedures to increase the number of trafficking victims identified by authorities, such as among women arrested for prostitution offenses and migrant workers; continue efforts to investigate and prosecute official complicity in trafficking; make greater efforts to combat international organized crime syndicates involved in human trafficking in Macau; expand incentives for victims to assist authorities in the prosecution of their traffickers, such as the ability to work in Macau; take steps to reduce the vulnerability of migrant workers to forced labor by reexamining immigration laws that increase this vulnerability; and support a visible anti-trafficking awareness campaign directed at reducing the demand for commercial sex acts.

Prosecution

Macau sustained its law enforcement efforts against trafficking during the reporting period. Macau's anti-trafficking law, Law Number 6/2008, prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons and prescribes penalties of three to 15 years' imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. During the reporting period, authorities initiated 15 investigations against sex trafficking, which is an increase from the six investigations reported last year. The government prosecuted two trafficking cases during this reporting period under its 2008 anti-trafficking law, resulting in the conviction and sentencing of one offender to three years' imprisonment for sex trafficking and the acquittal of two suspected traffickers. Ten investigations initiated during the reporting period remained ongoing and three cases were "archived" or put on hold while investigators sought to compile further evidence. The government continued to train entry-level police officers on basic anti-trafficking awareness and provided specialized training to police officers, immigration officials, and others on anti-trafficking investigation skills. It acknowledged, however, that its judiciary is ill-equipped to address trafficking adequately, with only 11 prosecutors available to handle all criminal cases in Macau. Many cases investigated in 2010 were closed due to lack of evidence or witnesses who were unwilling to cooperate with government authorities. Despite its modest progress in law enforcement against sex trafficking, the government did not report any law enforcement efforts against forced labor offenses. A former police officer was dismissed from duty and is awaiting trial for allegedly blackmailing two women in prostitution in 2007 for "protection" fees. Nonetheless, the government did not report broader efforts to investigate whether government complicity in trafficking offenses is occurring. There were no cases of joint investigations between Macau authorities and foreign governments during the reporting period; however, Macau authorities cooperated with mainland Chinese counterparts to conduct raids and repatriate victims during the reporting period.

Protection

Macau authorities made moderate progress in their efforts to protect trafficking victims during the reporting period. The government reported using a formal system to identify victims of trafficking among those arrested for prostitution and immigration violations; in 2010, the government identified 17 victims using this system. A total of 29 victims of sex trafficking, all from mainland China of whom nine were children under the age of 18, were identified during the reporting period. The government continued to lack a dedicated shelter to assist victims of trafficking, though it funded shelters run by the Women's General Association of Macau (one of which is dedicated to assisting trafficking victims) and designated 21 beds for female trafficking victims in an existing shelter for abused women operated by the Social Welfare Bureau. At these shelters, trafficking victims received medical, psychological, and legal assistance, as well as a stipend. During the reporting period, the government assisted 10 victims in the government-funded shelters, provided seven victims with police protection, and referred one victim to an NGO shelter for care; 11 victims chose to return home without government assistance. Child trafficking victims were placed in an NGO-operated shelter for children. The government reportedly encourages all victims to participate voluntarily in investigations against their traffickers, and all 29 identified victims in 2010 initially assisted law enforcement authorities; nonetheless, foreign victims were not permitted to work during the investigation and prosecution. In September 2010, the government worked with an international NGO to train government officials on identifying and assisting child sex trafficking victims. The government also sustained an existing partnership with a local NGO in order to identify interpreters to assist in interviewing foreign trafficking victims. Although female victims of forced labor had access to the government's multi-purpose shelter, the government did not report providing protection to victims of forced labor – either male or female. Foreign victims are not offered legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they may face hardship or retribution, though the government did not report any such situations.

Prevention

Macau continued to make efforts to prevent sex trafficking during the reporting period, but made fewer efforts to prevent forced labor. Starting in March 2010, the Legal Affairs Bureau began conducting seminars in secondary schools to enhance student awareness of trafficking. The Social Welfare Bureau, in conjunction with the Macau Women's General Association, continued to raise public awareness of trafficking through informational posters on buses and taxis. The Health Bureau distributed pamphlets at local clinics aimed at informing potential trafficking victims of their rights and resources, and the Public Security Police placed advertisements promoting the government's anti-trafficking hotline. In addition, the Immigration Department broadcast commercials aimed at helping foreign workers in domestic service avoid conditions of forced labor. Macau's "Law for the employment of non-resident workers" took effect in April 2010 and bars migrant workers who have been fired or quit early from obtaining another work permit for six months; the threat of deportation or fines for staying in Macau beyond a cancelled work permit may create vulnerabilities for foreign workers. The government also did not take measures during the year to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, such as conducting awareness campaigns targeting clients of Macau's prostitution industry.

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