Some 9,000 refugees and 4,000 asylum-seekers currently residing in Malta are vulnerable to being trafficked within the country’s informal labour market, the US Department of State warned in its latest annual human trafficking report.
In something of an eye-opener on the situation in Malta when it comes to the plight of those living largely below the radar, the report noted how most such individuals are trafficked within Malta itself to work in the construction, hospitality, and domestic work sectors.
The report reiterated its finding of the last five years, that human traffickers in Malta exploit Maltese and foreign national victims alike.
It also highlights how sex traffickers in Malta exploit both foreign and Maltese women as well as children, while labour traffickers tend to exploit both foreign men and women residing in Malta.
The labour trafficking victims in Malta originate mainly from China, Eastern Europe, Central America and Southeast Asia, with increasing numbers from the Philippines.
Women from Southeast Asia working as domestic workers, foreign women working in massage parlours, and women from Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, and Ukraine working in nightclubs “represent populations vulnerable to trafficking”, according to the US government report.
Fraudulent labour recruitment, which has been in the news lately on account of the conditions under which food delivery drivers have been found to be working, the report lifts the lid on one particular scam, in which, “Traffickers replace the originally signed contract with a less favourable one upon arrival in Malta or force victims to perform a completely different job than what was agreed upon,” according to the report.
“Though illegal, traffickers often confiscate the passports of victims upon arrival.
“Co-nationals of trafficking victims and Maltese citizens frequently work together to exploit victims.”
Although thousands of people are considered to be at risk of human trafficking in Malta, the report found that the Maltese government had only “slightly increased protection efforts”.
Agenzjja Appogg last year identified 18 potential foreign trafficking victims, compared with six in 2020 and 11 in 2019. These identifications were still fewer than the 24 registered in 2018, 30 in 2017, and 35 in 2016.
Of the potential victims identified last year, 11 were victims of labour trafficking (including four victims of domestic servitude and one victim of forced criminality), five were victims of sex trafficking, and two were victims of both sex and labour trafficking. Two potential victims were male, and 16 were female.
The potential trafficking victims identified in 2021 were from approximately 13 countries, with the majority originating from the Philippines.