THOSE involved in aggravated smuggling of migrants will face life imprisonment and whipping following amendments to the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants (Amendment) Bill 2021, says Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin.
“The amendments involve increasing prison sentences between 15 and 20 years for human trafficking and smuggling of migrants.
“For the more serious crimes, the proposed amendments also increase the punishment to a maximum jail term of 30 years or similar to life imprisonment, which also includes whipping,” he said when tabling the Bill for its second reading in Dewan Rakyat.
Among examples of the more serious offences were those involving public servants while discharging their duties, as well as repeat offenders.
“This includes causing serious injuries or death to victims or resulting in victims contracting chronic diseases or committing suicide.
“Also deemed serious are those involving children and the OKU (physically handicapped).
“The increase in jail sentences and whipping is a sign of the seriousness of the government in punishing offenders befitting their crimes,” he added.
Under the amendments, Hamzah also said there would be an increase in the membership to the Anti-Human Trafficking and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Council from three to five.
He said the members would be made up of experts from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the community.
“This is in line with aspiration of the Keluarga Malaysia (Malaysian Family) concept for greater involvement of NGOs and the community in the protection of human trafficking and migrant smuggling victims,” he added.
The minister also informed the House that since 2015, a total of 1,915 cases of human trafficking and 1,052 smuggling of migrants were recorded, of which 734 convictions had been secured.
“A total of 11,942 victims were rescued and given protection during the period,” he added.
Hamzah said one of the reasons behind the improvement in laws to tackle such crimes was due to the country being downgraded in the US State Department’s annual human trafficking report to Tier 3 this year from Tier 2 last year.
He said the amendments also sought to ensure that the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007 was consistent with the requirements under the UN Palermo Protocol and the Asean Convention Against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.
Earlier during debates, Hamzah said the cooperation of all parties was needed to prevent human trafficking and smuggling of migrants from happening.
He acknowledged that enforcement was needed to target syndicates or agents that might be involved.Deputy Speaker Datuk Mohd Rashid Hasnon later announced that the Bill was passed by a voice vote.