The government demonstrated mixed law enforcement efforts. The 2015 Trafficking in Persons Act criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking, and prescribed punishments of up to 14 years’ imprisonment for offenses involving an adult victim and up to 21 years’ imprisonment for those involving a child victim. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes, such as kidnapping. In 2019, the Malawi Police Service (MPS) reported anti-trafficking law enforcement data from 11 of Malawi’s 34 district-level police stations, compared with data from seven district-level police stations during the previous reporting period. MPS reported it arrested 48 suspects, prosecuted 30 alleged traffickers, and convicted 30, compared with 32 suspects arrested, 16 traffickers prosecuted, and 16 convicted during the previous reporting period. Among those arrested, one trafficker was later released on bail, and his alleged co-conspirator, who was known to law enforcement, remained at large at the close of the reporting period. The government reported the sentences of two traffickers under the anti-trafficking law, the first to five years’ imprisonment and the second to seven years and six months’ imprisonment for unknown types of exploitation. The government did not report sentencing data or what type of exploitation occurred in the other cases. Widespread corruption coupled with a lack of capacity and resources led to minimal documentation and poor data collection on trafficking cases. Some police and immigration officers were complicit in aiding traffickers that exploited Nepali women in Malawi. An observer reported that the government transferred an effective police investigator to a remote part of the country, allegedly to prevent the officer from further investigating and reporting on official involvement in the case. During the previous reporting period, experts reported that several police, health, and immigration officials were complicit in cases where Malawians were exploited in Kuwait and Iraq. The government arrested the alleged trafficker that facilitated the exploitation of women in the Middle East through a fraudulent recruitment scheme; however, the judge granted him bail, and observers reported that he continued to advertise for his fraudulent recruitment scheme while awaiting his trial. Some trafficking survivors who were repatriated from Kuwait were retraumatized when they saw the man in their local community. Law enforcement officers regularly failed to screen individuals engaged in commercial sex for trafficking indicators and were allegedly complicit in sex trafficking crimes by arresting and charging girls and women in commercial sex if they did not provide free sexual services to the arresting officer. Furthermore, officers often made little effort to discern the age of individuals in commercial sex or investigate such cases as child sex trafficking crimes, despite indications children were exploited. The Ministry of Homeland Security, which includes MPS and immigration officials, maintained primary responsibility for the prosecution of trafficking crimes and enforcement of trafficking laws. In September 2018, the Minister of Homeland Security designated by Gazette Notice all police, immigration, and labor officers as enforcement officers of the 2015 anti-trafficking act.
The Ministry of Homeland Security, in partnership with an international organization, trained 82 judicial officers in a colloquium on trafficking and conducted consultations for law enforcement agencies on a coordinated approach in data management and reporting. In coordination with an international organization, the government also trained 81 trafficking data collection officers from the Ministry of Labor, the Department of Immigration, the Ministry of Gender, the Ministry of Homeland Security, the Malawi Police Service, and the judiciary. It also trained 153 law enforcement officers on the new SOPs on victim identification and the NRM and held a workshop to review a new police recruit training manual on trafficking in persons, which included 36 police and immigration officers. The MPS retained anti-trafficking training in its curricula for the Limbe, Mtakata, and Mlangeni Police Training Schools and Zomba Police College, and human trafficking was a topic of continuing education lectures. The government, in coordination with an international organization, conducted a training of trainers on the anti-trafficking act for 40 officials from the police service, Department of Immigration, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Gender, Ministry of Homeland Security, the Human Rights Commission, media, and civil society. With support from an international organization, the government coordinated the third cross-border collaboration forum meeting on migration and trafficking in persons and held a cross-border forum with the Government of Zambia in Mchinji, and it participated in a tripartite meeting on migration with Zambia and Mozambique, which included trafficking in persons.
In April 2019, the U.S. Department of State suspended the A-3 visa sponsorship privileges afforded to Malawi bilateral mission members as a result of an unpaid final default judgment for approximately $1.1 million rendered in November 2016 by a federal district court in a civil human trafficking case involving a domestic worker who sued her former employer, a former Malawian diplomat, for trafficking. The former diplomat left the United States in 2012. During the reporting period, the diplomat continued to fail to pay the outstanding default judgment, and the government has yet to report taking any further action to hold the diplomat accountable. The government partnered with neighboring governments and an international law enforcement organization to increase investigative capacity of law enforcement through an intelligence-driven operation.