Malaysia Makes Inroads In Battling Human Trafficking
By Kurniawati Kamarudin
KUALA LUMPUR, (Bernama) -- They are promised good paying jobs in another country but upon arrival they are sent to the sex trade against their will or forced labour in what is now considered as modern day slavery.
They are the victims of a highly organised crime known as human trafficking, now considered the third biggest cross border crime after drugs and weapons.
Human trafficking is a global problem that notably has been on the rise over the last decade. According to Amnesty International, since 2004 about 700,000 people have been trafficked annually for the sex trade alone.
However, it is most unfortunate that Malaysia is seen as a lucrative place by human trafficking rackets to carry out their activities.
MALAYSIA'S RECORD IN HUMAN TRAFFICKING
This had blemished the country's reputation and efforts have been taken by the authorities to redeem the nation's image.
Nonetheless, the unwavering effort of the authorities have helped to improve the nation's standing in the United State's Trafficking In Persons (TIP) report compiled by the State Department to Tier 2 in 2010, an improvement from Tier 3 in the 2009.
The TIP ranks individual nations based on conformity to the minimum standards set for efforts taken in combating human trafficking where Tier 1 indicating full compliance to Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), Tier 2 indicating significant efforts taken to comply with TVPA while Tier 3 denotes no efforts being taken to conform with TVPA.
Malaysia's overall progress has been attracting people from all corners of the world and this has opened the doors wide for both human trafficking and human smuggling.
Concurrently, the presence of a big number of migrant workers in the country has opened the doors for vice syndicates to bring in women, legally and illegally, from China, Indonesia, Thailand, Balkan states and even India to cater for the sexual needs of this group.
One will be surprised that even small towns, plantations and industrial areas with big foreign population are well served by the vice rings who are in cahoots with human traffickers.
At the same time the rising number of vice dens, massage parlours and entertainment outlets catering for locals also fueled the demand for young women who are brought in by the same human trafficking syndicates.
Other than this, Malaysia's strategic geographical location, right in the middle of the Asean region has also made the country an attractive transit point for human traffickers and human smugglers as well.
Being aware of the problem, the country enacted the Anti Human Trafficking Law in 2007 but the enforcement has yet to be effective enough to stop completely the syndicates from trafficking persons, especially women and young girls into the flesh trade and domestic labour market.
Moreover, the covert modus operandi of the syndicates is well coordinated and in fact the syndicates bring in the people legally through social visit passes or under student visas, which make it more difficult for the authorities to identify the culprits and the victims of human trafficking.
MEN AND CHILDREN NOT SPARED
Yet even the men and children are not spared as they are often recruited into forced labour. Those coming from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nepal and Vietnam end up into forced labour though they were initially promised decent jobs and salaries.
They are often forced to sweat out up to 18 hours a day under very difficult conditions often without any remuneration.
Small children and babies are in high demand as well as they are used by syndicates to beg or sold to childless couples.
According to the statistics provided by the Anti Human Trafficking Council (MAPO), from Feb 28, 2008 to Dec 21, 2010, a total of 304 cases were reported relating to various types of human exploitation with 434 people arrested for being involved in the crime.
During the period, 1,930 victims of human traffickers managed to obtain Interim Protection Order (IPO) while another 708 were given protection including 189 victims of sexual exploitation, forced labour (58), human trafficking (24), and selling of babies (11).
LACKING IN AWARENESS
The Malaysian society's awareness on human trafficking is still low with many not clear of the definition of human trafficking.
While human trafficking is relatively a new crime, it covers a wide scope and the understanding on the matter is still limited noted MAPO's chairman Datuk Seri Mahmood Adam who is also the Home Affair Ministry's Secretary General.
During an interview with the local media recently, he noted that even the people at the enforcement side were not clear on human trafficking.
The definition is more complicated as it differs from human smuggling where many tend to consider both being the same.
Human trafficking refers to the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.
Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.
People smuggling, is where people voluntarily request or hire an individual, known as a smuggler, to covertly transport them from one location to another. This generally involves transportation from one country to another, where legal entry would be denied upon arrival at the international border. There may be no deception involved in the (illegal) agreement. After entry into the country and arrival at their ultimate destination, the smuggled person is usually free to find their own way.
However, the actual definition is more complicated because the human smuggler can turn into human trafficker and those who are smuggled can end up as victims of human trafficking as well.
GOVERNMENT IS SERIOUS IN BATLING HUMAN TRAFFICKING
Thus, the Anti Human Trafficking 2007 Act has been amended include the human smuggling element and therefore the Act now is known as Anti Human Trafficking and Anti Migrant Trafficking 2007 that came into force in Nov 15, 2010.
The amendment is to make the law more comprehensive and help in countering international syndicates that make Malaysia as their transit point in human smuggling to third countries, especially Australia.
Most of the human trafficking victims are from Afganistan, Pakistan and Myanmar. They are brought into Malaysia first before making their way into Indonesia and then Australia.
Bukit Aman's Criminal Investigation Department's Director Datuk Mohd Bakri Zinin gave assurance that the police would step up operations to counter human trafficking.
More police personnel will be stationed in trafficking hotspots like the Strait of Melaka and South China Sea that often serve as the main entry point before making their way into third countries.
Other than this, the government is also taking a systematic approach through the National Anti Human Trafficking Plan that sets the direction and focus in eradicating human trafficking.
The five year plan (2010-2015) is a testimony of the government's efforts and commitment in combating human trafficking.
Malaysia's target of achieving Tier 1 this year is a testimony of the government's commitment in battling human trafficking, a crime against humanity and in line with the National Key Result Areas goal to reduce crime.