In February 2018, a renewed impetus was placed on combatting human trafficking, as well as an announcement from Identity Malta (the government agency responsible for passports, identity documents, and residence permits) of the intention to implement reforms in this area. As part of this, the Parliamentary Secretary for Reforms, Citizenship and Simplification of Administrative Processes, Julia Farrugia Portelli, led an inter-ministerial delegation to London for an information and experience sharing exercise with officials from the British Government. The planned reforms aim to provide protection to vulnerable persons including victims of labour exploitation, those forced to work as prostitutes, or those who end up as victims of organ trafficking. Specialised training on modern slavery indicators was also carried out for Identity Malta employees, to assist in the identification of victims.
These plans were further reinforced when in December 2018, it was announced that a two-year Memorandum of Understanding had been signed by the British High Commissioner in Malta, Stuart Gill and Julia Farrugia Portelli. The British High Commission will provide experts from the UK to offer training to stakeholders in Malta, assistance for legislative reforms, and support with awareness raising initiatives. Moreover, it was also affirmed that during the two-year period covered by the Memorandum of Understanding, a national strategy against human trafficking will be devised.
Identity Malta is a frontline entity with a key role in identification of potential victims as the agency that grants residence permits for third country nationals, as well as the granting of permits to victims of trafficking who cooperate with the authorities. As further training for stakeholders has been highlighted as necessary in the US Trafficking in Persons Reports and the government National Action Plans to Combat Trafficking in Persons, this is a welcome step to improve identification of victims. Moreover, a national strategy against human trafficking place the fight against human trafficking more firmly on the political agenda, with a view to improving identification and protection of victims as well as prosecution of traffickers.