The Government of Malawi does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Malawi remained on Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by prosecuting and convicting 26 traffickers and handed down sentences ranging from 12 to 21 years imprisonment. It identified 121 trafficking victims and coordinated with a foreign government to repatriate two women who were exploited abroad. The government launched its anti-trafficking fund intended for victim services. The government also launched a five-year anti-trafficking national action plan and continued to conduct awareness-raising activities. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government did not always employ a victim-centered approach in the courtroom and continued to lack systematic procedures for the proactive identification of victims and their referral to care. In November 2016, a United States District Court for the District of Maryland issued a default judgment awarding more than $1 million in damages to a domestic worker who sued her former employer, a Malawian diplomat, for human trafficking; the diplomat left the United States in 2012. The diplomat did not pay the outstanding judgment nor did the government report taking any action during the reporting period to hold the diplomat accountable. Despite launching the anti-trafficking fund, it did not provide adequate funding to NGOs, which took the primary responsibility for providing protective services to victims.


Enter lists of enforcement and protection officers and shelters for trafficking victims in the official gazette in order for the law to be fully operational; fully implement the prosecution and protection provisions in the 2015 anti-trafficking law; vigorously prosecute and sentence both sex and labor trafficking offenses under the 2015 law; ensure all convicted traffickers receive jail time by consistently applying sufficiently stringent punishments; support training and increase funding for judges, prosecutors, labor inspectors, and police to identify, investigate, and prosecute trafficking crimes; develop formal guidelines to identify trafficking victims, especially among vulnerable populations, and refer them to available services; increase the availability of shelters and protection services for victims, including through in-kind or material support to NGOs for expansion of direct service provisions; improve and expand the collection of national prosecution and protection data; and increase awareness and monitoring of trafficking crimes, as well as efforts to identify traffickers and victims at border crossings and internal police checkpoints.


The government maintained robust law enforcement efforts. The 2015 Trafficking in Persons Act prohibited labor and sex trafficking and prescribed punishments of up to life imprisonment, without the option of fines. These penalties were sufficiently stringent, and with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.

In 2017, the Malawi Police Service (MPS) reported anti-trafficking law enforcement data from seven of Malawi's 34 district-level police stations. MPS reported it arrested 42 suspects, prosecuted at least 26 alleged traffickers, and convicted 26; this is compared with 30 arrests and prosecutions, and 18 convicted during the previous reporting period. The government did not report sentencing data; however, according to media reports the courts sentenced two traffickers to 12 and 21 years imprisonment. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which includes MPS and immigration officials, maintained primary responsibility for the prosecution of trafficking crimes and enforcement of trafficking laws. During the reporting period, a defendant who was self-representing was allowed to cross examine three girls aged 12, 13, and 14 who he exploited in sex trafficking in an open court with 60 onlookers in attendance.

The MPS retained anti-trafficking training in its curricula for the Limbe, Mtakata, and Mlangeni Police Training Schools and Zomba Police College and human trafficking was a topic of continuing education lectures. The Department for Immigration trained an unknown number of new immigration officers on victim identification and assistance to potential trafficking victims. In partnership with an international organization, the government trained an unknown number of magistrates, prosecutors, immigration officers, police investigators, police victim support officers, roadblock officers, and community policing partners. MHA partnered with an international organization to establish cross-border forums with Mozambique, Zambia, and Tanzania, with which the government held monthly information exchanges between law enforcement officials. In November 2016, a United States District Court for the District of Maryland issued a default judgement awarding more than $1 million in damages to a domestic worker who sued her former employer, a former Malawian diplomat, for trafficking; the former diplomat left the United States in 2012. The diplomat did not pay the outstanding judgment nor did the government report taking any action during the reporting period to hold the diplomat accountable.


The government maintained inadequate protection efforts. The government continued to lack systematic procedures for the proactive identification of victims and their referral to care. Given severe resource constraints, the government relied largely on NGOs to provide long-term protective services. The government identified 121 trafficking victims, a decrease from 168 identified during the previous reporting period. Of those victims, 86 were adults and 35 were children; 29 victims were identified abroad in Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and South Africa. The majority of victims identified abroad were women. The government did not provide information on whether these victims were referred to protective services. The government launched in December 2017 its anti-trafficking fund, as required by the 2015 anti-trafficking law. The fund, intended to finance delivery of protective services, shelter refurbishment, and repatriation, has yet to be credited with the budgeted funds. The government did not report how much of this budget was actually dispersed during the reporting period. The government did not provide in-kind or financial support for most NGO services, including those offered at the only dedicated shelter for trafficking victims in the country, which was operated by an international NGO. The government ran one social rehabilitation center in Lilongwe for vulnerable children, orphans, and child trafficking and gender-based violence victims, providing counseling and rehabilitation services. Despite the establishment of the anti-trafficking fund, the center remained chronically underfunded and poor conditions reportedly led some child sex trafficking victims to leave the shelter and return to the brothels from which they had been removed. The lack of adequate and sustained assistance left victims vulnerable to re-trafficking.

Some of the approximately 300 police sub-stations at the village level housed victim support units (VSUs) to respond to gender-based violence and trafficking crimes; however, the VSUs lacked capacity to respond adequately and the quality of services remained variable throughout the country. Some foreign victims avoided these centers due to fear of deportation. Malawian law does not provide foreign victims with temporary residency or other legal alternatives to removal to their countries of origin; foreign victims faced deportation unless they challenged their immigration status in court. The government coordinated with the Government of Iraq to repatriate two women who were exploited in Erbil. In 2017, there were no credible reports of trafficking victims being detained, fined, or jailed for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being subjected to trafficking; however, due to a lack of formal victim identification procedures during the reporting period, and the absence of alternatives to deportation for trafficking victims, some unidentified trafficking victims might have remained in the criminal justice system or been deported.


The government maintained modest efforts to prevent trafficking. The government launched a five-year anti-trafficking national action plan. The National Coordination Committee, established under the anti-trafficking act that came into force in November 2015, met once during the reporting period. Members of the informal Malawi Network Against Child Trafficking, comprising government officials, NGOs, and international stakeholders, registered as an NGO and met several times during the reporting period. The government conducted awareness campaigns via various media outlets. The government continued to participate in the South African Development Community (SADC) regional data collection tool by uploading trafficking cases, victim and trafficker profiles, and sharing information with countries in the region. Through its participation in the data tool, UNODC and SADC launched the first annual draft analysis report for the region. The government implemented compulsory universal birth registration, by issuing chip-based national identification cards to more than 9 million citizens over 16 years of age and 4.5 million under the age of 15.

The government did not conduct any labor inspections for the third consecutive year. However, after the government became aware of the exploitation of two Malawian women in Iraq, the Ministry of Labor issued a press release urging private employment agencies, the general public, and prospective economic migrants to familiarize themselves with the Labor Export Guidelines. Due to lack of funding, more than 60 percent of positions within the Ministry of Labor were vacant, impeding efforts to identify and penalize fraudulent labor recruitment during the year. The government did not demonstrate efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. Malawi did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel. With support and assistance from foreign entities, the government ensured Malawian troops received anti-trafficking training prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.


As reported over the past five years, Malawi is a source country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. To a lesser extent, it is a destination country for men, women, and children from Zambia, Mozambique, the Great Lakes region, and the Horn of Africa who are subjected to labor and sex trafficking, and a transit country for people from these countries exploited in South Africa. Most Malawian trafficking victims are exploited within the country, generally transported from the southern part of the country to the central and northern regions for forced labor in agriculture (predominantly the tobacco industry), goat and cattle herding, and brickmaking. Many cases of child labor external to the family involve fraudulent recruitment and physical or sexual abuse, indicative of forced labor. Traffickers – primarily facilitators or brothel owners – typically lure children from their families in rural areas under pretenses of employment opportunities, clothing, or lodging for which they are sometimes charged exorbitant fees, resulting in sex trafficking coerced through debts. Traffickers subject teenage boys to forced labor on farms and young girls to sexual exploitation in nightclubs or bars. Children are subjected to forced labor in begging, small businesses, and potentially in the fishing industry; in past years, some were coerced to commit crimes. Adult tenant farmers are vulnerable to exploitation, as they incur debts to landowners and may not receive payment during poor harvests. Malawian victims of sex and labor trafficking have been identified in Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, and Tanzania, as well as Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. Some young girls are drugged, gang-raped, and exploited in commercial sex. Some girls recruited for domestic service are instead forced to marry and subsequently subjected to child sex trafficking by their "husbands." Fraudulent employment agencies lure women and girls to Gulf states where they are exploited in sex and labor trafficking.


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