Why are we on US blacklist?

  • Nation
  • Thursday, 18 Jun 2009

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia will get the United States to explain why it has been re-listed in its blacklist of countries perceived to be not doing enough to stop human trafficking, said Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.

He said ministry officials would visit the US Embassy to determine Malaysia’s offending act or “non-action” that led for it to be blacklisted.

While imposing economic sanctions would not have an impact in view of the present climate, he said “it is incumbent on us to address the issue because we have a responsibility to the international community as far as human trafficking is concerned.”

“In fact, Malaysia, Australia and Britain are exploring the possibility of having an agreement on human trafficking to show our commitment in dealing with the issue,” Hishammuddin said after chairing his ministry’s post-Cabinet meeting here yesterday.

The United States Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report 2009 listed Malaysia as one of 17 countries not doing enough to stop human trafficking.

The others are Myanmar, Chad, Cuba, Eritrea, Fiji, Iran, Kuwait, Mauritania, Niger, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, and Zimbabwe.

The report said Malaysia was a destination, a source and transit country for women and children trafficked for the purpose of commercial, sexual and forced labour.

Last year, the report elevated Malaysia to a “watch list” from the 2007 blacklist after finding that it was “making significant efforts” to comply with standards.

Tenaganita director Dr Irene Fernandez said the report was a fair account of Malaysia’s “limited efforts” in trying to stem labour trafficking, which she described as a form of slavery.

“For the last 15 years, we have cautioned that allowing employers to withhold workers’ passports opens them to exploitation and bondage but this has not been addressed,” she said.

Deputy Home Minister Datuk Wira Abu Seman Yusof said the ministry would spearhead an inter-ministerial council to deal with human traffickers using the country as a transit point.

The first Asean Inter-Parliamentary Assembly Caucus chairman Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar refuted allegations that government officials were involved in human trafficking.

He said the situation may have been misunderstood when retrenched foreign workers are not sent home by their employers and are later caught and placed at shelters and depots.

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