Malta’s funding for the fight against human trafficking was slashed by 70 per cent last year, according to the US State Department.

A State Department report on global human trafficking found that Maltese authorities had drastically reduced the funds allocated to the fight against human trafficking from the €153,000 in 2012 to €46,000 last year.

This meant that Malta was still not complying with the minimum standards for the elimination of the illicit trade, the report concluded.

Malta a source and destination country for foreign women and children in the sex and forced-work trade

But the funds were not the only thing to be cut.

Published earlier this month, the report found that police authorities only inspected seven Maltese night clubs and massage parlours – suspected to be potential hotspots for sex trafficking – last year, down from the 135 inspections carried out in 2012.

The review, entitled The 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report, describes Malta as “a source and destination country” for foreign women and children tied up in the sex and forced-work trade.

The majority of trafficked female sex workers living in Malta come from China and Eastern Europe. Maltese women and children, however, had also been tricked into the trade, the report said.

Those forced into manual labour largely originated from China and the Philippines.

Filipino domestic workers, Chinese women working in massage parlours and eastern European nightclub dancers were the most vulnerable to exploitation.

Many of these, the report said, were intentionally brought into the country for the sex trade. Some 25 residents were identified as victims of human trafficking between 2003 and 2011.

Twenty-four of these were women, primarily from Russia, Ukraine and Romania.

All 25 were trafficked for sexual exploitation. The report also highlighted Maltese child prostitutes as those among the most vulnerable, despite no child victims having been identified over the past 11 years.

Police assisted seven trafficking victims last year, double the number of those given help in 2012.

These victims were put in touch with support agencies and also encouraged to provide the police with information that could lead to the apprehension of local traffickers.

One of last year’s victims was a Maltese woman forced into the sex trade, the rest were mostly Eastern Europeans.

Malta demonstrated “mixed progress” when it came to law enforcement.

Despite introducing measures to improve transparency and increased penalties for traffickers, no traffickers were convicted for the second year in a row.

Among the notable cases to remain open was the prosecution of a police officer for alleged involvement in trafficking who was convicted back in 2011.

The officer has appealed.

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