The low number of human trafficking convictions and failure to hold people accountable over the past five years is of concern to two NGOs that champion human rights.

Aditus Foundation and Victim Support Malta are calling for a “serious commitment” to identify and protect victims and hold perpetrators guilty.

The NGOs were contacted following the publication of a report by the US State Department, which urged Malta to “vigorously investigate and prosecute” human trafficking offences and pursue “adequate” sentencing.

The yearly Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report pointed out that since 2012, the government has failed to secure any trafficking convictions.

Meanwhile, courts have convicted some minors for prostitution in recent years, who may have been unidentified sex trafficking victims, according to the same report.

READ: US report finds Malta is not doing enough to fight human trafficking

Aditus and VSM are concerned about the low number of trafficking convictions, particularly in light of the fact that recent TIP reports have shown that there is trafficking to Malta and within Malta.

In spite of the identification of 35 victims of trafficking over the past year, Malta has not secured any convictions for trafficking in the last five years, and officially, not one person has been held accountable, they told this newspaper.

“Although several action plans have been launched, there is a need for more in-depth investigations, more targeted training for law-enforcement agents and prosecutors, adequate support for victims and further research and awareness on the issue.”

Asked about the inadequate availability of translators for victims, which was also flagged by the TIP report and is a “matter of great concern” for the two NGOs, they confirmed that although victims are entitled to interpreters by law, they are often denied access to this service.

Aditus and VSM urged the authorities to improve assistance for all victims, including those of human trafficking.

“Notwithstanding the transposition into law of the Victims’ Rights Directive through the Victims of Crime Act in 2015, there are still severe gaps in service provision for victims.

“There needs to be serious commitment, both financially and in practice, on behalf of the government and the Human Trafficking Monitoring Committee in implementing the 2017-2020 National Action Plan on Combating Trafficking in Persons in order to identify and protect victims of trafficking and to hold those guilty of such crimes accountable.”

When contacted, the Home Affairs Ministry did not comment about Malta’s failure to secure any trafficking convictions since 2012.

Instead, a spokeswoman said: “Not correct – it does not imply that there have not been successful investigations involving trafficking in human beings (THB) – there are cases still sub judice and older cases on appeal.”

The Ministry was asked to clarify this matter, since conviction means actually finding someone guilty, but no reply was received by the time this newspaper went to print.

Asked for a reaction to criticism about convicted minors who may have been unidentified sex trafficking victims, the ministry said the Vice Squad considered the THB scenario when investigating prostitution cases.

About the inadequate availability of translators for victims, the spokeswoman said the police “has always found translators for investigations, being European, Asian or other”.

Vice Squad personnel, assisted by the Victim Support Unit, always did whatever was needed to assist victims in the best manner possible, she added.

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