The government decreased victim protection efforts. Due to a lack of coordinated data collection at the national level, the government did not report comprehensive data. The government reported identifying 72 victims of trafficking, compared with 175 victims identified in the previous reporting period and the lowest number of victims identified since 2016. Of the 72 victims identified, traffickers exploited nine in forced labor, 18 in sex trafficking, and 45 in unspecified exploitation; 61 were female and 11 were male; 48 were adults, 20 were children, and the age of four victims was unknown; and all 72 victims were Malagasy. The government provided various services, including medical care and education assistance, to 37 trafficking victims, a significant decrease compared with at least 117 victims assisted last reporting period. In addition to victims identified by the government, NGOs and international organizations reported identifying and assisting at least 769 potential victims, providing them with services, including medical care, social reintegration assistance, school support, and repatriation assistance for Malagasy nationals potentially exploited in domestic servitude abroad. The government remained without official SOPs to proactively identify trafficking victims and refer them to care; instead, there were disparate SOPs across different ministries that were used to varying degrees. Government officials continued to have access to a victim identification and referral manual developed by an international organization; however, the government did not actively distribute the manual, and use of the procedures outside of Antananarivo remained minimal. The government did not proactively screen vulnerable populations, including child laborers, women exploited in commercial sex, returning Malagasy migrant workers, and foreign workers, for trafficking indicators.
The Ministry of Population (MOP), in collaboration with an international organization, continued to coordinate more than 700 child protection networks across the country to assist children following abuse and exploitation and ensure access to medical and psychological services for victims of crime, including trafficking. Due to lack of resources, only about 450 child protection networks provided basic assistance through public hospitals and health units, and most of the networks referred the victims to international organizations and NGOs for additional assistance; this was a decrease compared with 600 networks operating in the previous reporting period. Through referral from the child protection networks, an international organization assisted 630 children (361 girls and 269 boys), including victims of sexual exploitation and the worst forms of child labor, both including child trafficking. The Mitsinjo Center, a government-owned, trafficking-specific temporary shelter for repatriated adult victims, continued to operate with a capacity to house 22 occupants; however, the government did not report the number of victims assisted at the shelter, compared with one potential victim assisted during the previous reporting period. Six government hospitals, in partnership with an international organization, maintained “one-stop” victim support centers that offered assistance to child victims of various abuses, including sex trafficking; the one-stop support centers—located in Antananarivo, Mahajanga, Nosy Be, Toamasina, Tolagnaro, and Toliara—offered victims medical assistance and psychological support through social workers, and they provided access to police to file complaints. The government reported assisting 1,351 children (including 16 boys) at these facilities; however, the government did not report the number of identified trafficking victims assisted.
The MOP, in partnership with an international organization, continued to operate a foster care program for exploited children in Nosy Be; the government did not provide statistics on the number of children assisted through the program for the third consecutive reporting period. The government continued to operate and fund the Manjary Soa Center in Antananarivo, which received 35 children who had been removed from situations of forced labor in domestic work or street vending. This center provided vocational training or reintegration into the public school system and allowed victims to stay at the center for one school year. The city of Antananarivo continued to manage an emergency center for child victims of crime, including domestic servitude and forced begging victims, who were frequently referred by the Morals and Protection of Minors Police Service. The city government, in partnership with an international organization, provided food, lodging, psychological and medical aid, and educational services to victims; however, the government did not report the number of victims served at the center. The government, in partnership with an international organization, operated two specialized centers for gender-based violence victims, including potential trafficking victims, in Antananarivo. These centers provided free psychological support, medical care, and legal assistance; the government did not report the number of trafficking victims assisted during the reporting period.
Due to a lack of formal identification procedures, some potential trafficking victims may have remained unidentified within the law enforcement system. Police sometimes arrested girls for “prostitution” without screening or identifying them as trafficking victims and would sometimes temporarily keep potential transnational labor trafficking victims in police stations due to a lack of alternative accommodations. Observers reported employers often sued former child domestic workers to avoid paying accumulated unpaid salaries in cases where victims may have reported their abuse; despite documenting 55 such cases where employers sued child domestic workers, the government did not report investigating these incidents for potential trafficking crimes or screening the children for trafficking indicators. To prevent retaliation from suspected traffickers, trafficking trials could be held in private or by video conference to ensure witness confidentiality and privacy; however, the government did not report doing so. While the 2014 anti-trafficking law entitled victims to restitution, for the eighth consecutive year, the government did not implement this provision. Observers reported courts in Toliara denied child sex trafficking victims’ request for compensation because the victims lacked birth certificates and national identity cards. The 2014 anti-trafficking law required authorities to consider legal alternatives for foreign trafficking victims who believe they may face hardship or retribution if returned to their country of origin.