Fighting against trafficking in human beings in Mauritius

Located off the southeast coast of Africa, the Republic of Mauritius has a dynamic economy and defines itself as a country of migrants. It is both a ‘sender’ and ‘receiver’ country with nearly 15% emigrants. However, in the past decades, the migration trend has slightly changed and immigration has increased, going from 3,600 migrants in 1990 to nearly 30,000 in 2019.

Despite the political and economic stability, Mauritius faces challenges in managing migration, including irregular migration and trafficking in human beings. In recent years, human traffickers have exploited domestic and foreign victims in the country. With the economic recession ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic, rising unemployment has hit low-income migrant workers and their families and, as a consequence, put them at higher risk of exploitation and THB.

It is in this context that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) of Mauritius requested MIEUX+ support to strengthen the capacities of its national authorities in the area of identification, referral, investigation and prosecution of THB cases.

Assessing capacity and training needs through cooperation and partnerships

The Action kicked off with an on-site mission in Port Louis where the MIEUX+ team and experts met with the partner authorities and other relevant actors to understand the national THB landscape.

For instance, discussions with the Prime Minister’s Office representatives who warmly welcomed the MIEUX+ team to Mauritius, once again highlighted the PMO’s commitment to ramp up efforts to combat trafficking in persons and address gaps highlighted by the 2021 TIP report, which placed Mauritius in Tier 2 for the 6th consecutive year. The MIEUX+ team took the opportunity to restate the programme’s value in assisting the country in this endeavour and to discuss expectations from the different consultations during this week, as well as confirm the overall objectives of the activity and the Action.

Discussions with the Mauritius Police Force shed light on the difficulties of international cooperation on transnational cases of human trafficking and specifically, on evidence-gathering in these cases, in order to be able to prove trafficking beyond reasonable doubt. This often results in drawn out investigations which in turn, comes with a whole new set of challenges.

Consultations with the Ministry of Gender and Family Welfare were useful in understanding the elements in place for the protection of the most vulnerable from abuse and exploitation, especially women and children. Current frameworks in place are a valuable basis from which to enhance protections for potential victims of trafficking. During a visit to a shelter, the MIEUX+ team was able to link theory with practice and see the efforts put in place to assist and protect potential victims of trafficking, upon their identification as such.

The PMO highlighted the importance to work with MIEUX+ for this project. By bringing the EU expertise and practices, suitable training materials will be developed to strengthen the staff’s capacities when it comes to fighting exploitation and THB.

What is next?

The meetings and topics discussed with the different stakeholders gave the MIEUX+ team food for thought in terms of ways to address existing challenges. The MIEUX+ team and experts will continue the close collaboration with all actors involved throughout the duration of the Mauritius III Action.

All the information gathered will be synthesised in a final report that will form the basis for the next project activities, namely the development of SOPs to improve victim identification and referral, and investigation and prosecution of THB cases, and the development of a training curriculum on these.

Stay tuned for more information!