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Monday, 23 June 2014

'Progress in fight against trafficking'

SINGAPORE has made significant progress to combat human trafficking and is working to improve further, a government taskforce said.

The Singapore Inter-agency Taskforce on Trafficking in Persons was responding yesterday to criticism from the United States that not enough is being done, especially against labour trafficking.

The taskforce said it is helping Christopher de Souza, a Member of Parliament for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, on a Private Member’s Bill against human trafficking, expected to be tabled in Parliament this year.

This would “empower agencies with the necessary powers and levers to deal with trafficking in persons more effectively,” said the taskforce, which is spearheaded by the Home Affairs and Manpower ministries.

Singapore does not have dedicated laws against human trafficking, but outlaws sex trafficking of women and children through other legislation.

The annual Trafficking In Persons report, released by the US government last Friday, placed Singapore in Tier 2 of its four-tier ranking for the fourth year. This means Singapore has not fully complied with minimum standards to curb trafficking, but has made significant strides.

It said that while Singapore has improved in areas such as case referrals and criminal prosecution records, it remains a “destination country” for adults and girls from at least nine Asian countries being trafficked as sex workers or forced labour.

It criticised the Government’s “modest” efforts, where victims are protected on a case-by-case basis. While those identified are not punished for crimes committed due to being trafficked, inadequate identification means some may have slipped through the cracks.

The United States urged Singapore to enact laws to ban all forms of trafficking, increase specialised training for front-line officers and foster closer coordination with civil society groups.

The Singapore taskforce said it would study the report in detail. While it welcomed US efforts to highlight an important global issue, it called for a “more objective methodology... (to) ensure a consistent, transparent, and measurable standard is applied to all countries”.

De Souza told The Sunday Times: “Even one case of human trafficking in Singapore is one case too many. With this in mind, the intention behind the Bill is to take into account the views of agencies, voluntary welfare groups and like-minded citizens to protect the vulnerable and stamp out this evil practice.” — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

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