83 rescued between 2008 and October this year, says Fatimah

KUCHING: Some 83 victims of human trafficking, mostly foreign nationals, have been rescued in Sarawak between 2008 and October this year.

Welfare, Women and Family Development Minister Datuk Fatimah Abdullah said the majority of victims were from Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand while several were Malaysians.

She also said 68 arrests had been made in relation to human trafficking in the state in the same period, with the suspects including Malaysians, Indonesians and Thais.

“Although most of the victims are foreign nationals, this does not mean we do not need to be responsible for them.

“They are also human beings like us, not goods to be sold. They need protection so that they will not continue to be victimised by irresponsible syndicates,” Fatimah said yesterday.

She was representing Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud to launch the state-level anti-trafficking in persons campaign organised by the Council for Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants (Mapo); Home Ministry; Women’s Bureau; Welfare, Women and Family Development Ministry, and National Council of Women’s Organisations (NCWO) at Wisma Bapa Malaysia here.

On national statistics, Fatimah said 2,213 victims from 20 countries had been rescued and given interim protection orders since February 2008, when the Anti-Trafficking Persons Act 2007 was enforced, to October this year.

Of this total, 869 were identified as true victims and given protection orders.

In addition, 534 suspects were arrested and 359 people charged in court.

Fatimah said human trafficking and smuggling of migrants were complex crimes involving syndicates.

“From the statistics, we know that most victims are women and children. The figures are difficult to estimate but about 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year.

“Seventy per cent are female and 50% are children. Most are sold into commercial sex trade,” she said.

She also said Malaysia was a destination and transit country for human trafficking and was currently placed on the United States Department of State’s Tier 2 Watch List.

“This means we do not fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards.”

She added that the government was committed to combating human trafficking and needed public cooperation in its efforts.

“Prevention strategies include raising awareness and disseminating information, community networking, capacity building and training, and empowerment through education, income generation and job training.”

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