This article is in conjunction with World Day Against Trafficking in Persons which falls on July 30 every year. This year’s theme was Victims’ Voices Lead the Way.
KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama): Human trafficking is the third-largest crime in the world, behind drugs and arms trafficking, and Malaysia is no exception to this heinous activity.
In fact, a rising trend in human trafficking cases has been noted in Malaysia with 165 cases recorded in 2020, compared with only 17 such cases in 2008.
As for the smuggling of migrants, the number of cases rose sharply to 265 in 2020 from three in 2010.
According to statistics from the Council for Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants, from 2015 up to June 2021, a total of 1,854 trafficking cases were reported while 2,732 people were arrested in connection with the cases.
Meanwhile, a total of 10,463 victims of human trafficking have been saved and provided protection. They have all been placed in 10 shelters provided by the government as well as non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
According to media reports, many migrant smuggling cases involved local syndicates that assisted them to sneak into the country. Such activities are, of course, a threat to the security and sovereignty of this nation.
To prevent this crime from becoming more widespread, the Malaysian Government enacted a special law, the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act or Atipsom (2007), which was enforced in 2008.
In accordance with the Atipsom Act, the government established the Council for Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants (Mapo) to, among others, coordinate the implementation of the Act.
"Mapo is also tasked with formulating policies and programmes to prevent and combat the crime of trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants in Malaysia.
"It also functions and acts inclusively as the council’s membership consists of various ministries, enforcement agencies and other organisations, including the relevant NGOs,” Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin told Bernama in an exclusive interview recently.
Efforts by Mapo
Elaborating on Mapo, Hamzah said five committees have been formed to support the implementation of the council’s functions, namely the Legislation Committee, Enforcement Committee, Victim Care and Protection Committee, Media and Publicity Committee and a special
committee to oversee the issue of labour trafficking.
The five enforcement agencies empowered to enforce the Act are the Royal Malaysia Police, Immigration Department of Malaysia, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), Royal Malaysian Customs Department and the Labour Department.
The minister said Mapo is also coordinating various efforts to educate the public that trafficking in persons, as well as smuggling of migrants, is a serious crime.
"The efforts include stepping up enforcement activities and using the mass media to channel information concerning this offence.
"Apart from that, the government has also established a special court in Klang, Selangor, to deal with trafficking in persons cases and has set up eight government shelters and two NGO shelters for the placement of victims of human trafficking in Malaysia,” he added.
Stressing that smuggling of migrants is a crime that can threaten the security and sovereignty of the nation, Hamzah said the government will not compromise with any party that conspires with syndicates involved in the smuggling of migrants to procure certain rewards, including material and financial benefits.
"The victim protection programme, however, does not apply to smuggled migrants (into the country) unless there is proof that they are exploited sexually or as forced labour or organ donors which resulted in them becoming victims of human trafficking,” he explained.
Enhancing Mapo's role
In countering the modus operandi of human trafficking and smuggling rackets, Mapo, through the various enforcement agencies, will continue to intensify efforts to rescue the victims of human trafficking in Malaysia.
"In line with this year’s theme for World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, ‘Victims’ Voices Lead the Way’, we hope that victims of human trafficking who have been rescued will cooperate with enforcement officers and provide tip-offs that lead to the arrest of the criminals concerned so that
they are charged, convicted and punished accordingly,” said Hamzah.
According to the Home Minister, people who feel they are being exploited and are victims of human trafficking should come forward to lodge a report to enable the enforcement agencies concerned to take immediate action.
These victims, he said, serve as important informants who can assist enforcement officers to take the necessary action to save them from further exploitation. All victims of human trafficking will be placed in shelters located nationwide and given protection in line with the victim-centred approach concept.
Hamzah added that in keeping with the functions and role of Mapo as outlined in Section 7 of the Atipsom Act 2007, the council will continue to play an active role in ensuring that activities involving trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, which appear to be growing more rampant in this country, are kept under control and eventually eliminated.
"The latest directions and programmes proposed to stamp out human trafficking activities are outlined in the National Action Plan on Anti-Trafficking in Persons 2021-2025 (Naptip),” he said.
Meanwhile, measures to improve Malaysia’s international reputation pertaining to the issue of trafficking in persons and the smuggling of migrants were discussed at a meeting convened by Mapo’s high-level committee in March this year.
Elaborating on this, Hamzah said Mapo has, among others, enforced the Atipsom Act 2007, developed and implemented Naptip 2021-2025 and improved the victim identification aspect based on the indicators set out in the National Guidelines on Human Trafficking Indicators (NGHTI).
He also said that one of the efforts underscored by the United Nations in the fight against human trafficking is encouraging its member nations to draft the necessary legislation, as well as mete out the appropriate punishments to the perpetrators.
"In this context, Malaysia has manifested its seriousness in combating this crime by enacting the Atipsom Act 2007.
"This Act is the main legislation that has been applied since 2008 to control and prevent crimes related to human trafficking and smuggling of migrants from becoming more prevalent. This Act was amended twice in 2010 and 2015 to improve the elements of enforcement, prosecution and
protection of victims of human trafficking,” said Hamzah.
He said based on feedback received by Mapo, a few existing clauses in the Atipsom Act are being improved to ensure that the Act remains relevant and leads to higher convictions in human trafficking and forced labour cases.
"The government is now in the final process of drafting the necessary amendments in accordance with current needs and developments and they (proposed amendments) are expected to be tabled in Parliament when it convenes again later,” he added.
Naptip 2021-2025, meanwhile, is a policy reference source for Mapo’s guiding principles, strategic goals and proposed activities for implementation between 2021 and 2025.
"It consists of our long-term plan to curb human trafficking activities in Malaysia,” Hamzah said, adding that the actions/activities outlined in Naptip 2021-2025 will be implemented starting this year, depending on the appropriateness of the activities concerned and local conditions.
NGHTI, meanwhile, comprises special indicators developed to assist enforcement agencies in identifying human trafficking victims. The indicators are crucial in ensuring that all victims of human trafficking are identified and rescued and placed in government-designated shelters.
Hamzah said NGHTI was developed based on the requirements and obligations outlined under Article 14 of the Asean Convention on Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (ACTIP), to establish national guidelines on victim identification and where appropriate, work with
the relevant NGOs.
"Apart from that, the government has stepped up enforcement operations through enforcement agencies such as the police, Immigration Department, Customs, Labour Department and MMEA, as well as prosecution of offenders involved in the crimes. Our success is also evident in the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report 2016-2020,” he pointed out.
Report human trafficking activities
Apart from misunderstandings on the issue of trafficking which in reality does not only involve migrants but also local citizens, many people are also afraid of lodging reports on human trafficking cases.
Commenting on this, Hamzah said the public, as well as human trafficking victims, need not be afraid to report any human trafficking activity taking place in their area as their identity and information they provide will be kept confidential.
Any information given will only be used to help enforcement agencies to conduct their investigations, he stressed.
To report any activity related to human trafficking or smuggling of migrants, the public can contact 03-8000 8000 (hotline) or send an email to email@example.com.
They can also make a complaint via the Mapo chatbot application at its website at http://mapo.bernama.com.
"The enforcement agencies will act on all complaints received. Mapo would also like to take this opportunity to urge the public to work with the government to prevent this crime from becoming more prevalent in our country.
"If we can get everyone to cooperate, it will not be impossible for us to eradicate human trafficking and smuggling of migrants in this country.
"If we are able to do this, we can help our nation to become more progressive, peaceful and safe. Apart from that, we can also help our nation to attain its Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 which aims to make Malaysia a united, prosperous and dignified nation in the eyes of the world,” added the minister.
The Council for Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants or Mapo is a special body set up under the Home Ministry in 2007 to formulate and monitor activities to combat crimes related to trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants in Malaysia.
The World Day Against Trafficking in Persons is observed on July 30 every year to shed more light on this crime and the commitment to eradicate this complex and heinous activity.
Human trafficking is a modern-day slavery practice and a grave violation of human rights, freedom and dignity.
Malaysia started observing World Day Against Trafficking in Persons in 2017 to raise more awareness of this crime among Malaysians.
Mapo will continue to take various initiatives to empower its structure and committees and strengthen the agency. The initiatives include seeking the expertise of specialists in certain fields to help improve Malaysia’s rating from time to time.
At the agency’s second meeting this year, which took place virtually on July 22 and was attended by about 70 representatives from ministries and agencies that are members of Mapo as well as related NGOs, it drew up strategies for improvement as a follow-up to the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report 2021.
According to Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin, the collaboration forged with various organisations such as NGOs, civil society organisations, international organisations, academics and individuals actively involved in this issue will enable Mapo to address this issue in a holistic manner through the whole-of-nation approach without making any compromise and by prioritising national security and sovereignty.
He said Mapo has also prepared a National Report on Human Trafficking to explain the initiatives taken by the government to eradicate human trafficking in Malaysia.
The report is a public document that can be downloaded from MAPO’s website at http://mapo.bernama.com/.- Bernama