SINGAPORE – Tackles Human Trafficking Head On

By Imelda Saad | Posted: 17 December 2011 2100 hrs

NGOs submit proposals on action against human trafficking 

 SINGAPORE: Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have submitted proposals to the authorities for a National Plan of Action against Human Trafficking.

This is the first time Singapore is putting together a whole-of-government strategy to combat the problem, which authorities said is a “threat to Singapore’s security as we are its economic and social fabric.”

The recommendations from the NGOs come after three separate forums were held over the past four weeks.

With quivering hands, 27-year-old “Anna” from the Philippines showed the physical abuse suffered at the hands of her employer.

Blows to her body made to sleep in the toilet.

There was no escape, because her passport was held by the employer.

“Anna” still owes the agent who brought her to Singapore, seven-and-a-half months in salary.

Non-governmental organisation, HOME, said the public must realise that “Anna” is a victim of labour trafficking.

Bridget Tan, founder, Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics, said: “From our point of view, as an NGO, and using the UN Trafficking protocol, what we understand about the human need for freedom is the right to be paid a salary. To us, it is clear that this is trafficking. Labour trafficking.

“But of course, the authorities might not agree with me on this because as they say, it is a complex issue.

“For me, I’d like to define it from a very human-centred approach – where the person suffers, the person works, and has no salary, that to me is really exploitation and it is an element of labour trafficking.”

NGOs said the definition of trafficking covers not just the act of harbouring and transportation, but also the method of coercion, exploitation and forced labour.

“It is a crime against humanity. It is a crime that makes women, men, boys cry, because they are in a slave-like conditions, where they have no escape,” said Ms Tan.

So among the proposals put forth by the NGOs, which include the Singapore UN Women National Committee are a less legalistic definition of Trafficking in Persons, a dedicated Anti-Human Trafficking Law, and education and training for stakeholders and law enforcers.

They also want to see a comprehensive assistance scheme, to cover rehabilitation and integration of victims, and giving victims immunity against offences such as overstaying.

Ms Tan said: “A trafficked victim normally comes out of that situation very traumatised. So there should be more support for these victims. This person (is) to be given safety, security and also help, financial help – that she would be prepared to also become a prosecution witness, and be prepared to help us fight the crime.”

Authorities have not ruled out the possibility of new laws on human trafficking.

Singapore does not have a specific human trafficking law, but the Penal Code and Women’s Charter criminalises various aspects of sex trafficking.

The Children and Young Persons Act specifically prohibits trafficking in children.

The National Plan of Action against human trafficking is expected to be ready by mid next year.

Meantime, the inter-agency task force said it will review the feedback, collate the inputs and fine-tune its policies. Authorities will also continue to work with NGOs to raise awareness on the issue of human trafficking.

Inter-Agency Taskforce on Trafficking in Persons told Channel NewsAsia that “trafficking in persons is a complex issue which requires the concerted efforts of multiple parties.”

The Taskforce added it found the forum participants’ insights and experiences in dealing with victims, useful, and have invited NGOs to share more with its officers.

It will also “ride on the momentum to collaborate with NGOs on initiatives that can help heighten public awareness on Trafficking In Persons issues”.



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