Macau remains “a source territory for sex trafficking and forced labour” despite government efforts to fight human trafficking, according to the latest annual report from the U.S. State Department. The report rates 188 countries on their efforts to fight modern-day slavery.
The report claims Macau prosecutors have been charging human traffickers with lighter crimes that are easier to prove. The head of the Good Shepherd Centre also says that the police and prosecutors still don’t understand what human trafficking is.
The U.S. State Department acknowledged that local authorities have convicted six traffickers, and are persisting in building judicial and prosecutorial capacity by training more officers. However, the report stated that authorities have failed to identify any labour trafficking victims, identifying only five sex trafficking victims aged over 30 in 2013.
Macau remained on Tier 2 – the second-lowest ranking in the department’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report.
The report added that, “victims are sometimes confined in massage parlours and illegal brothels, where they are closely monitored, threatened with violence, forced to work long hours, and have their identity documents confiscated.” It also stated that children have reportedly been subjected to sex trafficking on the premises of casinos.
The US State Department found that Macau authorities demonstrated “decreased efforts” to protect the victims of trafficking. “Authorities identified five victims of forced prostitution, a sharp decline from 38 in 2013, in which 24 of the victims were children,” it said.
The report added that authorities decreased their allocation of funding to MOP1.8 million from MOP3 million to establish and support protection measures for the victims of trafficking. Last year, the US annual report recalled that Macau authorities had allocated about MOP3 million in 2013 to support victim protection measures, representing an increase over the previous year.
Regarding prevention measures, the report acknowledged Macau’s efforts in reducing demand for commercial sex acts through the law enforcement authorities’ efforts to combat prostitution-related advertisements and improve the number of inspections into illegal brothels. But those efforts were not enough, as measures failed to significantly reduce the demand for prostitution in casinos, nightclubs, and saunas.
The US government suggested that Macau increase its efforts in investigating, prosecuting and convicting sex and labour traffickers, while implementing proactive victim identification methods, in particular among vulnerable populations such as migrant workers and children working for prostitution rings. The US government also advised that the city should conduct sex trafficking awareness campaigns to ensure that visitors understand that soliciting or engaging in prostitution with children is illegal.
Finally, they suggested for authorities to conduct a survey on the city’s migrant population, looking to assess its vulnerability to human trafficking. (macaunews/MDT)