A new task force should be set up to coordinate the fight against human trafficking and support the victims, a new legal paper on the subject recommends.
Published by the Malta Law Students’ Society (GħSL), the position paper says a specialised team could provide a much needed “clear cut” approach to tackling this issue including victim protection, prevention, prosecution, international cooperation and national coordination.
The sad reality, the aspiring lawyers argue, was that Malta had been known to house European women who have been subject to human trafficking, particularly for prostitution purposes.
However, women were not the only victims. One such case referenced in the paper dates back to 2009, and had involved three men from Pakistan who were being forced to work in an Indian restaurant.
This was further compounded by irregular migration from North Africa. These were highlighted as being at risk of falling victim to the island’s informal labour market.
Quoting the latest Trafficking in Persons report, the position paper details how Malta was considered by human traffickers as an “ideal” destination for labour and sex trafficking, with women being notable victims of the latter.
According to the report, victims in Malta typically originated from China, with the aim of being exploited as massage parlour employees – a sector linked to the black market sex trade.
Victims are often comparable to slaves
Victims from central and eastern Europe, were being exploited as football players in questionable work contracts or being employed in Paceville nightclubs.
Victims from south-east Asia, on the other hand, were mostly being made to work as domestic care workers.
Grace Attard, the vice president of the National Council of Women, told the law students society that victims of human trafficking in Malta were often comparable to slaves, as they were denied the most basic of freedoms, such as mobility, or the freedom to enjoy the majority of their earnings.
She also questioned whether the apparent lack of perpetrators being charged for human trafficking offences was due to a lack of evidence against them or because of shortcomings in the law.
The position paper encourages enforcement authorities not to hold back in administering heavy penalties to traffickers.
Leniency, the paper says, only served to embolden criminals involved in these networks, “with the number of victims seemingly only increasing as time elapses”.
The paper also called for NGOs involved in this sector to be supported through funding, resources and access.
Malta had made significant efforts in recent years, mostly by making specialised training available to law enforcement agencies, allocating more funds to the prevention of human trafficking and increasing the capacity of shelters.
This, however, was not enough.
Training currently offered to law enforcement should be extended to cover people who worked in high-risk areas such as airports.
Finally, the paper also suggests awareness raising campaigns as a way to inform the public about the risks and prevalence of human trafficking in the country.
This, the society believes, could help weed out the spread of the crime on the island.
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