Malta is being harshly criticised for its lack of progress on implementing a Council of Europe convention on protecting the victims of human trafficking, after the island placed in the second-worst position after Ukraine.
In its latest report, in which 35 countries are evaluated, the Strasbourg-based organisation has urged Malta to put into practice and register progress in 16 areas of the convention.
These include areas such as a mechanism for better identification and assistance to victims, compensation from perpetrators and the safe return of victims to the countries from which they were trafficked.
A Council of Europe spokes-man told Times of Malta that the island had to seriously improve the implementation of this important convention, as only Ukraine was considered to be worst than Malta.
Some countries that are not considered to be at the forefront of human rights, such as Azerbaijan and Armenia, managed to achieve a better assessment than Malta.
According to the evaluation report by the Council’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking of Human Beings – known as GRETA – Maltese figures on victims of trafficking may not be giving the right picture.
While the report on Malta, based on figures for the years between 2003 and 2011, states that only 25 people on the island were found to be victims of human trafficking, all foreign nationals trafficked for sexual exploitation, GRETA believes such figures may not reflect the true situation, given the lack of formal procedure for identifying victims.
The report also notes that most of the criminal cases launched since 2006 are still pending.
Some countries that are not considered to be at the forefront in human rights, such as Azerbaijan and Armenia, got a better assessment than Malta
GRETA urged Malta to ensure offences linked to human trafficking were investigated and prosecuted promptly and effectively.
On the other hand, the report noted progress in certain areas, including the development of an institutional and legal framework for combating trafficking in human beings.
This included the adoption of the first national action plan to combat trafficking and the creation of a Human Trafficking Monitoring Committee.
Comparing the evaluation of the 35 countries, GRETA found that the majority had to step up their efforts to identify child victims and to provide them with the support they were legally entitled to.
The committee said further measures were also needed in many countries to improve the identification of victims and improve the effectiveness of investigations, prosecutions and convictions related to human trafficking.
It is now expected to carry out its second evaluation of Malta later this year.
The subject of human trafficking was also raised by MEP Therese Comodini Cachia, who urged the EU to step up its efforts to effectively tackle this phenomenon, as well as forced labour.
“The fact that 65 per cent of people trafficked in the EU are European citizens should serve as a key driver for the EU to step up its efforts if it wants to effectively protect its citizens from forced labour and human trafficking,” Dr Comodini Cachia said.
Some 30,000 victims of human trafficking in the European Union were registered between 2010 and 2012, 65 per cent of whom were European citizens.
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