The government maintained minimal anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The 2008 Law on Preventing and Combating the Trafficking of People criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of 16 to 20 years’ imprisonment. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Inconsistent with international law, the law did not establish the use of force, fraud, or coercion as an essential element of the crime. The government continued to work with an international organization to review draft amendments to bring the 2008 anti-trafficking law in line with international standards; however, draft amendments remained awaiting approval by various stakeholders for the third consecutive reporting period.
The government investigated two human trafficking cases in 2021, compared with six case investigations in 2020. The government prosecuted and convicted two traffickers in 2021, compared with two suspects prosecuted and one trafficker convicted of forced labor in 2020. Judges sentenced the convicted traffickers to two years and 16 years in prison, respectively. One investigation remained ongoing at the end of the reporting period. Due to conflation between migrant smuggling and human trafficking, the government may have prosecuted migrant smuggling crimes under its anti-trafficking law. With support from an international organization, the government contributed information on trafficking case investigations to a national centralized anti-trafficking data collection and reporting tool. The government reported that pandemic restrictions limited law enforcement’s ability to detect, prevent, and respond to human trafficking and collaborate with neighboring countries on cross border investigations.
Official complicity in human trafficking crimes remained a significant concern and inhibited law enforcement action during the year. An investigation by an anti-corruption NGO led the government to appoint a Commission of Inquiry and open a criminal investigation into human trafficking at Ndlavela Women’s Prison, where prison guards allegedly forced inmates through violence and intimidation to engage in commercial sex both inside and outside the prison. The Commission confirmed prison guards brought sex buyers into the prison, allegedly including high-ranking officials, but disagreed with some key details of the NGO’s report, including the claim that female inmates were removed from the prison for exploitation. Civil society expressed serious concerns about the investigation’s validity and independence, suggesting the Commission withheld details to shield government officials from liability. The government suspended prison personnel and opened a criminal investigation, which remained ongoing at the end of the reporting period. The victims interviewed reported experiencing serious psychological distress; however, the government did not report providing appropriate services to victims. Subsequent media reports alleged similar and widespread sexual abuse and potential sex trafficking of female inmates throughout the country. Similar to previous years, traffickers commonly bribed police and immigration officials to facilitate trafficking domestically and transnationally, especially to South Africa.
The government, in partnership with an international organization, trained 141 front-line officials in four provinces on draft revised SOPs for victim identification and referral and trained 30 customs and border officers and investigators on trafficking in persons, child protection, and irregular migration in Tete Province. In partnership with the Maputo and Cabo Delgado Province Reference Groups and support from an international organization, the government trained 49 individuals, including law enforcement and anti-corruption officials, religious leaders, NGO representatives, and tour operators. The government reported working with civil society to establish and strengthen existing cross-border reference groups with neighboring countries to improve coordination on law enforcement operations, prevention efforts, and victim protection. Police stations throughout the country had specialists, trained by the Office of Assistance to Women and Children Victims of Domestic Violence, available to respond and provide support to potential trafficking cases. The government continued to offer victim support in more than 215 police stations and 22 “Victims of Violence” centers throughout the country, offering temporary shelter, food, limited counseling, and monitoring following reintegration for victims of crime. The government did not, however, provide specific numbers of trafficking victims who benefited from these services for the prior two years.