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Speech at launch event of the National Plan of Action

Mr Tan Chuan-Jin , Minister of State for National Development and Manpower, the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS)

Good morning

Distinguished guests;
Members of the Inter-agency Taskforce on Trafficking-in-Persons;
Ladies and gentlemen;

  1. I would like to thank all of you for coming today. This event marks the start of a new chapter that was co-created with the support of various partners, stakeholders and agencies, many of whom have taken time to join us here.

    Commitment to Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP)
  2. What does this National Plan of Action mean for us? It signals that the Singapore Government is committed towards fighting trafficking in persons (or TIP for short) more holistically, more strategically and more effectively.
  3. TIP is a transnational crime. It involves the illegal trade of persons for commercial sexual exploitation, forced labour or the trafficking of organs. TIP is more than just transporting or harbouring persons. It also involves the use of force, coercion or other means, for the purpose of exploitation.
  4. Singapore, with its high people flows, is an attractive platform for human traffickers. While TIP is not a severe problem in Singapore, sex trafficking and signs of labour trafficking-related exploitation do exist. Organ trafficking has limited prevalence here.
  5. So, Singapore focuses on combating sex and labour trafficking. This targeted approach, in conjunction with tough laws and public awareness efforts, has helped keep the country safe and secure. However, criminals and human traffickers are becoming more organised and increasingly transnational. This has made having a well-coordinated response all the more important.
  6. We took a first step in November 2010 by setting up an Inter-Agency Taskforce. This brought together various government agencies to work towards the common end of combating TIP. NGOs, foreign governments and other relevant organisations or individuals have also been engaged. I would like to thank you for your support. To turn collaboration into action, the Taskforce has worked with stakeholders and partners to create the National Plan of Action, or NPA for short.

    National Plan of Action (NPA)
  7. The NPA is a roadmap for concerted action from 2012 to 2015. It will strengthen current policies and processes, as well as develop new ones to address gaps. The NPA proposes a 4 ‘P’s strategy. This comprises initiatives under Prevention, Prosecution Protection and Partnership. Allow me to highlight some examples.
  8. Under Prevention, we aim to reduce the incidence of TIP by detecting potential cases early and raising awareness amongst key stakeholders. This will include running structured training programmes for government officers, embarking on public education initiatives and conducting research studies. We will also strengthen the case referral mechanism, and explore setting up a TIP hotline.
  9. The second P is Prosecution. We hope to enhance the investigation and prosecution of TIP cases. One key initiative we will embark on is to review current legislation. We will study our own laws and those of other countries. This will help us see if there is scope to enhance our legislative frameworks, powers and penalties against TIP. In addition, we will set up specialised enforcement teams to combat sex and labour trafficking.
  10. The third P, Protection, acknowledges the need to adopt a victim-centred approach for TIP victims. Few will step forward if they fear being prosecuted for offences they may have been coerced into committing. We will enhance the management of TIP victims, particularly our prosecution witnesses. This will come in the form of clearer victim identification procedures and enhanced victim-care services. We will also facilitate the re-entry of victims to their home countries. The Taskforce has committed to review the adequacy of current shelter facilities and will make the necessary recommendations by next year.
  11. Under the 4th P, Partnership, we seek to create strong partnerships with foreign governments, businesses, academia, as well as civil society. In practical terms, this means many of you who are here with us today. Trafficking syndicates build their own networks. They live in the hope that we will never get our act together to derive synergies through coordinated action. We need to be one step ahead. We should tap on the strengths and resources of all relevant parties to create a multiplier effect and effectively combat TIP. We seek your continued partnership and support to make this happen.
  12. To facilitate the 4 ‘P’s strategy, we will also need strategic Enablers. These include strengthening our Whole-Of-Government approach, enhancing our reporting and data collection, as well as reviewing our accession to the United Nations Protocol on TIP, also known as the Palermo Protocol.

    Acknowledging our Partners and Stakeholders
  13. The Inter-Agency Taskforce has worked hard over the past year to create Singapore’s first NPA. We could not have done this without our partners and stakeholders who contributed feedback and inputs at various stages since 2011.
  14. Many NGOs, TIP researchers, academia and interested individuals came forward to share their views and lend support. UN Women and HOME led a series of discussions last year on this issue. Retail chain Bodyshop also ran an anti sex-trafficking campaign in their shops. We hope to see more businesses becoming active in this area of corporate social responsibility. This will help sustain the momentum we have built up so far and raise attention to this issue.

    Responses to the Public Consultation Exercise
  15. On behalf of the Taskforce, I would like to thank all the contributors who gave such positive and detailed responses during the consultation exercise. You will see many of your suggestions within this plan. As the NPA is meant to be a high-level strategic document, we might not have been able to incorporate some of the more specific or detailed proposals made by various parties. However, your inputs remain important and valuable and will be considered by the implementation teams when carrying out the initiatives.
  16. We also heard strong calls to speed up certain initiatives such as accession to the UN TIP Protocol. While I understand the NGOs’ anxiety and call for urgency as they have been involved in this process for a while, I think we need to pace ourselves, conduct a thorough review and ensure that we can fulfill the obligations in an international agreement before we sign on the dotted line. Once we are ready, we will do so. We need to put in effort to get ourselves ready. When we say we are ready, we will translate it into action.

    New TIP Taskforce Logo
  17. Finally, I am pleased to unveil the new logo of the Inter-Agency Taskforce on TIP. Some of you would have noticed it on our backdrop. This logo symbolises the Taskforce’s commitment towards combating TIP. The hand in the logo represents our responsiveness towards this threat, while the broken chains convey freedom from strongholds and overcoming adversity. This is balanced with an authoritative font and the national colour red - underscoring the gravity with which the Singapore Government views this crime.

  18. Ladies and gentlemen, no one wants to be a TIP victim. Neither would any of us wish it upon others. This is why all of us here today take the fight against TIP seriously. This is why we are launching our National Plan of Action.
  19. But we cannot do this alone. The Taskforce will need the constructive support of governments, businesses, academia and civil society. Together we can make the NPA a reality.
  20. Thank you.