Malta rests in the central Mediterranean between Sicily and the North African coast. With a population of approximately 520,000, the nation is one of the most densely populated countries across the globe.
In the 1990s, Malta became a common host country for refugees fleeing from former Yugoslavian states and Iraq. As of 2020, reports indicate that most asylum seekers now arrive in Malta from Libya and Syria. The U.S. Department of State reported that one of the most vulnerable populations in Malta is refugees and asylum-seekers. Approximately 9,000 refugees and 4,000 asylum seekers currently reside in Malta. This demographic is increasingly more likely to become trafficked into Malta’s informal labor markets.
Malta: Tier 2 Watchlist
Malta has been identified by the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) and the U.S. State Department as a destination country for trafficked persons. According to the U.S. Department of State, Malta falls on the Tier 2 watchlist for human trafficking standards. Despite efforts to raise public awareness, develop victim assistance services and implement training procedures for government officials the government of Malta fails to meet the minimum requirements to combat human trafficking. The government maintains very few records of human trafficking incidents and GRETA has actively called on Malta to increase its efforts to combat human trafficking.
Human Trafficking Efforts on the Ground
The Malta Police Force Vice-Squad initiated 16 investigations in 2020, 11 more than in 2019. Unfortunately, in 2021, the government did not prosecute or convict any traffickers.
Although the situation remains concerning, the government of Malta is still making efforts to end human trafficking in Malta. The Ministries for Home Affairs, Law Enforcement and National Security have engaged the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to provide guidance in implementing and training Maltese stakeholders on the ground. Maltese police officer recruitment now entails a three-month induction course and an annual two-week hands-on training service. In 2019, reports indicate the International Centre for Parliamentary studies conducted a five-day training on human trafficking procedures with the Maltese police force. In an effort to raise further awareness, an additional human trafficking prevention and protocol training event occurred for more than 150 diplomats, consuls and ambassadors working in Maltese Foreign Representations.
Efforts to Spread Awareness
In an effort to raise awareness among the general public and those at risk of falling victim to the human trafficking network, the national TVM channel aired a piece relating to human trafficking in Malta every day for three months. The national awareness campaign encourages members of the public to report any suspicious activity or leads of human trafficking cases in Malta.
In July 2019, the campaign “Human, like you” launched with the intention to inform the public about the underground human trafficking economy and its subsequent impact on the nation. The slogan is presented as a bar code representing how traffickers are marketing and selling human beings like objects. The campaign shares accounts from real-life victims of human trafficking and provides a safe space for reporting crimes. Overall, “Human, like you” gives a voice to the voiceless and empowers others to speak out and report suspicious activity.
In the modern world, awareness is key to bringing about change. The government’s efforts to implement training services and national television programs demonstrate that authorities have acknowledged the great risk traffickers pose to vulnerable populations. National campaigns aimed at spreading awareness and providing a voice to human trafficking victims provide a safe outlet for the general public. The collective efforts demonstrate that the nation recognizes the grave danger posed by human trafficking networks. This recognition alone paints a hopeful picture of an end to human trafficking in Malta.
– Sophie Caldwell