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MALTATODAY 31 July 2022

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4 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 31 JULY 2022 NEWS CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 Additionally, the US State Department noted that Malta's employment laws did not allow workers to be charged recruit- ment fees by employment or recruitment agencies. "How- ever, this practice continued to occur, and the government did not report effective law en- forcement measures taken to deter agencies from continuing the practice." MaltaToday had revealed last year that recruitment agencies operating for local food deliv- ery companies had been taking a 50% cut from couriers' wag- es, while charging recruitment fees of several thousand euro. The report added to fraudu- lent labour recruitment would also take the form of traffickers replacing the originally-signed contract with a less favourable one when the worker arrives in Malta. Sometimes, traffickers would force victims to perform a completely different job than what was agreed upon, or even confiscate the passports of vic- tims upon arrival. The precarious position of foreign workers and asy- lum-seekers was made worse by the fact that they cannot leave their employers without prior government permission. This is because work permits are tied to a specific employer, which could increase their vul- nerability to trafficking. GRETA and NGOs had re- ported a lack of oversight and regulation on the licensing of massage parlours, which had a higher likelihood of indicators of sex trafficking. Indeed, GRETA had already relayed the concerns of civil society that police did not pro- actively identify trafficking vic- tims in massage parlours. Prosecution and investigation The report notes that human trafficking investigations de- creased in 2022 compared to the previous year, while point- ing to a lack of coordination among ministries. For the 2021 period, govern- ment did not report prosecut- ing or convicting any traffick- ers – also marking a decrease compared to the year prior. The US State Department re- marked on the 17-year delay of a trial against a former police officer who had been accused of, and eventually admitted to, the facilitation of sex traffick- ing. An investigation was first ini- tiated in 2004 against a former police officer who had alleged- ly acted as an accomplice to a convicted sex trafficker by fal- sifying visa documents. He ad- mitted to procuring a victim, but was eventually acquitted in June 2021. This concern reflects what had been flagged by the Coun- cil of Europe's expert group on human trafficking (GRETA). The report had urged the Mal- tese authorities to ensure that human trafficking cases lead to effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions. More so, trafficking convic- tions continued to get over- turned due to technicalities. In February 2022 a judge ruled that a Balzan brothel-owner's case had to be re-heard due to a technical flaw in the proceed- ings. A month earlier, the courts handed a suspended sentence on what the US State De- partment described as an "al- leged case of forced labour". A 39-year-old Maltese woman kept another woman locked in a tiny room where should would assemble Playmobil dolls that could then be sold on to the company's factory. The victim was held in squalid con- ditions, surrounded by dog fae- ces and forced to use a bucket as a toilet. Victim identification According to the report, Aġenzija Appoġġ identified 18 potential foreign trafficking victims in 2021. From the vic- tims identified, 11 were victims of labour trafficking, including four victims of domestic servi- tude and one victim of forced Fraudulent labour practices a 'significant concern' for human trafficking in Malta US State Department trafficking report f lags court delays and fraudulent labour practices as key concerns to Malta's human trafficking efforts

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