PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia needs to beef up its enforcement agencies, work more closely with Interpol, and increase cooperation with the governments of human trafficking source countries, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
He said these three approaches would help Malaysia achieve its goal of reaching Tier 1 ranking in the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TiP) annual report by 2020.
“We are targeting to reach Tier 1 by 2020, so efforts must be made in these three areas.
“That’s why I’m setting a very high target for us – the ministers, our ministries, and secretaries-general – to work together with the Home Ministry,” said Dr Ahmad Zahid, who is also Home Minister.
He added that closer cooperation between police and Interpol, as well as Aseanapol, was needed for a better exchange of intelligence on human trafficking networks.
Malaysia’s high commissioners and ambassadors are also working with the foreign ministries in the source countries of trafficking victims.
“We will not stop there but will continue to work more closely with the source countries,” Dr Ahmad Zahid said.
He agreed when asked whether or not he felt Malaysia needed more labour inspectors to track human trafficking issues in rural plantations.
“The High-Level Committee of Mapo (Anti-Human Trafficking and Anti-Migrant Smuggling Council) meeting has agreed to focus more on labour cases and look into the possibility of increasing the number of labour inspectors,” Dr Ahmad Zahid said.
He said that for the immediate future, the Government has approved the building of additional shelter homes to cater for the increase in the number of trafficking victims.
Dr Ahmad Zahid said he had instructed his ministry to move forward with ratifying the Asean Convention against Trafficking in Persons, which he said should be done by the end of this month.
The Government was also studying a seeming lack of interest shown by trafficked victims to move about freely within the country, Dr Ahmad Zahid added.
In May last year, the Government approved regulations allowing victims to move freely and work in Malaysia, but Dr Ahmad Zahid said there seemed to be a lack of interest among victims to take up the offer.
“The results of this study should be able to help the Government formulate solutions to overcome the impasse.”
Dr Ahmad Zahid noted that civil society has a big role in the fight against human trafficking, adding that Malaysia does not discriminate between legal and illegal migrants: “We rescue all victims of trafficking, migrant or otherwise, who fall within our definition of trafficking regardless of immigration status, nationality or gender.”