Human trafficking: Is Malaysia doing enough?

Human trafficking: Is Malaysia doing enough?

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has been upgraded to Tier 2 Watchlist of the United States’ Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report for 2023, indicating that the country has yet to meet the minimum standards to eliminate trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.

While the nation’s upgrade in status was a welcome move, Executive Director of North-South Initiative Adrian Pereira said Malaysia had a long way to go. “Based on the types of cases we see and based on the response of various government agencies, it’s barely scratching the surface of effective change,” he told Astro AWANI.

He noted that the report demonstrated “some degree of segregated data”, which was obtained either through the government or research and investigations. In response to Malaysia’s progress in addressing human trafficking, Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifudin Nasution said this was due to increased investigations, prosecutions and convictions related to the issue.

However, Adrian said there was still a gap concerning the identity of individuals who were prosecuted and convicted.

“The moment we are able to name and shame those who are actually masterminding trafficking, I think that is when we still start to see some systemic change. “For now, nobody really knows,” he said, adding that not everyone has access to court proceedings and legal processes to understand and set a precedent for other companies and supply chains, ensuring that their workers are not subjected to human trafficking in Malaysia.

According to Adrian, corruption was one of the root causes for migrants to fall victim of trafficking and forced labour. This was evident through the high recruitment fees for migrants to obtain employment permits.

There was also the issue of job scams, which has left hundreds of migrant workers stranded in Malaysia without jobs despite their approved permits. “The question is, who is actually responsible for issuing this permit? There are so many indicators of corruption at various levels,” said Adrian.

He added that the government, through the Council for Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants (MAPO), should have the political will to effectively eliminate trafficking, beyond external pressures.

“MAPO has gotten the ball rolling with better collaboration with some selected non-governmental organisations (NGO), but there is so much more to be done, especially working with the migrant workers and the refugee community themselves.”

-Faye Kwan

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