US: Malaysia has a lot to do to improve on anti-human trafficking efforts

Source from Malaymail, Thursday, November 18th, 2010 13:48:00

KUALA LUMPUR: Despite the improvement in ratings by the US State Dept’s annual human trafficking report, there is still much to be improved in Malaysia’s anti-trafficking effort, said US Dept of State Office to Monitor Combat Trafficking in Persons ambassador-at-large, Luis CdeBaca, during his visit to the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) this morning.

In an annual report by the US State Dept on human trafficking in 177 countries, Malaysia, which was previously on tier Three, managed to move up the rung to bottom tier Two.

"The move up from tier Three to tier Two reflects improvement by the Malaysian government but we would like to see more done in areas such as care for victims, rehabilitation and it is very important for victims not to be treated as immigration criminals. There should be a support mechanism for them to fall back on when they come forward for such as counseling," CdeBaca said, adding that he would raise these issues in talks with the government today.

Suhakam president, Muhammad Sha’ani Abdullah said the reason for the slack in dealing with trafficking issues was the lack of understanding among enforcement personnel, lack of government funding, lack of resources and lack of public awareness.

"It is not right for trafficking victims to be treated as immigration criminals," Muhammad Sha’ani said. "There should be a distinction between smuggling and trafficking victims. The government has to understand while smuggling victims pay their way into the country, trafficking victims are exploited and deceived by lucrative job offers. By deporting them after we have used their labour, is wrong."

He also added that the authorities should treat complaints such as unpaid salary, long working hours and abuse as trafficking issues.

"The reason victims do not come forward is because they will be put into confinement and then deported," Muhammad Sha’ani said.

CdeBaca also raised questions on this issue.

"Is the government waiting for people to come up and say I am a victim of trafficking? Because victims don’t know definitions. And if that is so, the government can wait forever. We want a robust, civil society. We don’t want victims to escape into something worse," said CdeBaca.

The amendment in the trafficking Act, to incorporate smuggling, was also questioned, as Muhammad Sha’ani said it was "further victimising the victim".

MTUC Congress Officer Abdul Aziz Ismail, who was also present, said that for every one complaint received, there are 27 unreported cases of human trafficking.

"This will later affect the economy and security of the country. We have to take the courage to punish these traffickers publicly in court."

Malaysia is currently leading in the international human trafficking industry, moving up to 1.2 million victims a year and amounting to USD 1.66 billion a year in corruption money alone.

A large section of victims are those from Sri Lanka, Indonesia and China.

Also present at the talk were United States Embassy Political Officer Gregory D’Alesandro and US Dept of State Global Affairs Officer Jason Vorderstrasse.

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