PETALING JAYA: While Malaysia remains in Tier 2 of the United States annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, it has been taken off the watchlist.
In the 2017 report that was released on Tuesday night, Malaysia was taken off the watchlist as the Malaysian Government was deemed to have made significant efforts to eliminate trafficking.
"The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Malaysia was upgraded," said the report which is released by the US State Department annually.
It said the Government had expanded trafficking investigations, prosecutions, and convictions.
The report added that officials had strengthened enforcement of the law prohibiting passport retention and convicted 17 employers for unauthorised retention of passports, compared with zero convictions during the previous year.
It also said that the Government had established a new interagency law enforcement taskforce to galvanise coordinated anti-trafficking operations, where 17 officers from seven agencies were assigned and trained on investigative tactics.
The Government had also approved an updated national action plan spanning 2016-2020 and allocated sufficient resources towards its implementation, the report added.
Malaysia was in the Tier 2 watchlist for the past two years after moving up from the Tier 3 blacklist in 2015.
Countries in Tier 2 are considered nations that do not fully meet the Trafficking Victims Protection Act's (TVPA) minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to meet those standards.
The Tier 2 watchlist is similar to Tier 2, but with three additional criteria, including the failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts and where the number of victims is significant or increasing.
The report said that Malaysia is considered to be a destination and, to a much lesser extent, source and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour and women and children subjected to sex trafficking.
Tenaganita programme director Aegile Fernandez said that Malaysia's jump was expected as the Government had made efforts to improve the situation, such as ensuring higher convictions and making more arrests.
She, however, added that the Government could do much more to handle the problem of labour trafficking especially.
The TIP report is the US government's principal diplomatic tool to engage foreign governments on human trafficking.
The US State Department places each country onto one of three tiers based on the extent of their governments' efforts to comply with the "minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking".