Malta (Tier 2)
Malta is primarily a destination country for men and women trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor. There is evidence that at least one person was trafficked to Malta from Serbia in 2005, and there were 30 to 40 victims of trafficking in 2004. Although there is not yet clear evidence that the number of identified trafficking victims exceeds 100, any number of victims is a cause for concern given Malta's relatively small size. Women are trafficked from Ukraine, Russia, and other countries in Eastern Europe to Malta for commercial sexual exploitation.
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. During the reporting period, Malta suffered from an influx of illegal immigrants who arrive in Malta on boats intending to reach Italy; however, the vast majority of these smuggled immigrants are either economic migrants or political refugees. Most seek asylum status upon arrival in Malta. There is no concrete evidence of trafficking victims among this group; however, some of those who are granted protected status are vulnerable to forced labor and other forms of exploitation in Malta, especially in fields like construction. However, because the government does not systematically differentiate trafficking victims from illegal migrants, potential trafficking victims in Malta are not identified. The government should focus specifically on understanding better the nature of the trafficking problem and its inter-relationship with irregular migration. It should also consider taking proactive steps to train law enforcement personnel on victim identification techniques, including the key difference between trafficking and smuggling: exploitation. The misconception about force and consent, and smuggling and trafficking among government and law enforcement officials continued to hinder official recognition of the problem in Malta. The government should also take stronger measures to enforce the existing legal protections afforded protected migrants who enter the Maltese labor market.
The Government of Malta prosecuted two trafficking cases in 2005. In 2004 Maltese police arrested 13 Maltese men arrested for trafficking 30 to 40 women from Eastern Europe. During the reporting period, the government prosecuted all 13 traffickers. Some have been convicted and are appealing; judgment is pending on the others. Maltese law enforcement personnel conducted regular raids of commercial sexual exploitation sites in Malta, but potential trafficking victims found at these sites were not screened explicitly for trafficking. Only seven of the 239 individuals arrested on prostitution-related charges in 2005 were foreign nationals, a possible indication that the 2004 crackdown had a deterrent effect. In 2005, the government of Malta cooperated with Russian law enforcement to investigate and arrest an agent procuring women to work in prostitution in Malta. In 2005, the government sentenced one police officer to three years in prison following a 2004 conviction for trafficking-related corruption. The government has yet to convict and sentence a former police officer in a 2004 case involving trafficking-related corruption; the investigation is ongoing.
The government of Malta did not screen for potential trafficking victims within its significant population of incoming illegal migrants in 2005. The government houses these migrants in refugee camps while addressing their asylum claims; the government's focus is primarily to provide sustenance. With regard to women in prostitution, NGOs and women's organizations which did not have actual contact with any victims reported the problem as more widespread and believe that some women in prostitution were in situations involving force, fraud, or coercion. The government did not report that it provided any assistance or protection to new trafficking victims in 2005.
The government did not conduct any anti-trafficking awareness campaigns in 2005. However, it continued to maintain a 24-hour hotline for many types of victims, including possible victims of trafficking. Malta's NGO community reported the likelihood of trafficking within the refugee community and reported an overall lack of attention and resources to try to uncover the problem.