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Measures in place to help trafficked victims

  • The Straits Times (3 August 2016): Provide better protection for victims of human trafficking
  • The Straits Times (18 August 2016): Measures in place to help trafficked victims

Measures in place to help trafficked victims
The Straits Times, 18 August 2016

  1. We refer to the letter by the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) “Provide better protection for victims of human trafficking” (3 August 2016). 
  2. The Singapore Inter-Agency Taskforce on Trafficking in Persons (TIP) was formed in 2010 to combat TIP in Singapore. In November 2014, the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act (PHTA) was passed, followed by Singapore’s accession to the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (UN TIP Protocol) in September 2015. Singapore also ratified the ASEAN Convention against TIP, Especially Women and Children (ACTIP) in January 2016. These show that Singapore is serious in our fight against TIP.
  3. We recognise that trafficked victims are a group of extremely vulnerable individuals. As such, the PHTA has put in place a regime to protect and support them, as well as to encourage the reporting of TIP offences. For instance, the PHTA protects the identity of informers of TIP offences, and allows for in-camera hearings of TIP trials. There are also protection measures in place under various other legislation, including the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM)  are aware of the plight and anxieties of these victims, and do not prosecute such victims for acts which they are compelled to commit as a direct consequence of being trafficked victims unless there are compelling factors.
  4. We also have the discretion to provide a range of additional support measures, customised to the victims’ needs. For example, victims are granted Special Passes to remain in Singapore while their cases are being processed. During case investigation, we also facilitate the placement of victims who are willing and able to work, in suitable employment in Singapore. This allows them to remain gainfully employed and maintain an income. Victims are required to meet prevailing work pass requirements, including source controls, so as not to encourage more trafficking attempts. However, we exercise flexibility in exceptional circumstances. NGOs may surface specific deserving cases to MHA and MOM for consideration.
  5. The Taskforce remains committed to combatting TIP, and will continually strengthen our regime against TIP. 

Lee Pak Sing,
Divisional Director, Workplace Policy and Strategy Division, Ministry of Manpower 
Co-chair, Singapore Inter-Agency Taskforce on Trafficking in Persons

Marvin Sim,
Senior Director (Joint Ops Group), Ministry of Home Affairs 
Co-chair, Singapore Inter-Agency Taskforce on Trafficking in Persons

Provide better protection for victims of human trafficking
- The Straits Times, 3 August 2016

  1. With the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons marked last Saturday, there is cause for us to review how well Singapore has done in combating human trafficking.
  2. Low-wage migrant workers, who make up 30 per cent of our workforce, are particularly vulnerable to trafficking.
  3. Non-governmental organisations like the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home) handle cases where workers are deceived about the nature and conditions of their work but are prevented from leaving employment due to economic duress and work pass conditions.
  4. These include the need to seek permission from the employer to change jobs and the uncertainty of gaining other employment, should workers raise a complaint.
  5. Given the clandestine nature of the crime, often, the key to prosecuting traffickers is through the testimonies and cooperation of victims.
  6. However, victims are reluctant to seek justice, and may even refuse to report their cases because of uncertainties regarding their legal status, fear of being prosecuted for legal infractions committed while being trafficked, and the pressure to continue to provide for their families.
  7. In 2014, three Vietnamese who sought help from Home declined to pursue their case when they became aware that they would not be allowed to work because Vietnam is not a source country under the temporary job scheme extended to workers who are to remain in Singapore to assist with investigations.
  8. Foreign domestic workers who are trafficked have found that they cannot switch sectors if they wish to continue working while investigations are under way.
  9. Currently, only limited protection, including temporary shelter and counselling, is legislated. This is provided on a case-by-case basis.
  10. The urgency to better protect victims is more real now that Singapore has ratified international conventions, namely the Palermo Protocol and the Asean Convention Against Trafficking In Persons, Especially Women and Children.
  11. These treaties contain provisions for victims, such as physical and psychological recovery, medical care, housing, mental health counselling, job training, legal assistance, physical safety, the provision of temporary or permanent residence for victims, and the facilitation of their safe repatriation.
  12. The Stoptraffickingsg campaign, backed by a coalition of NGOs, has recommended strengthening our anti-trafficking legislation by codifying protection measures, including the non-criminalisation of victims, the right to work, and shelter.
  13. Key terms such as forced labour and coercion should be better defined.
  14. Protection measures should not be dismissed as discretionary provisions but instead be regarded as integral to an effective anti-trafficking programme.

Tam Peck Hoon (Ms)
Head, Advocacy and Awareness
Campaign Manager, Stoptraffickingsg
Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics