Govt should heed US human trafficking report, says Malaysian Bar

by LYDIA NATHAN / pic credit:

MALAYSIA must take cognisance of the recommendations put forth in the US Trafficking in Persons (USTIPs) Report 2021 as the recent downgrade to Tier 3 should be viewed as an opportunity for the country to improve and do better.

Malaysian Bar president AG Kalidas (picture) said the downgrade was concerning and noted that the report highlighted the government’s inaction in addressing allegations of human trafficking, namely, in the palm oil sector and rubber industry, as well as alleged corruption among its enforcement officials.

“We, therefore, urge the government to pay attention and acknowledge the recommendations in the report as we also wish to state our own proposals and reiterate several pertinent issues raised in the report,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Kalidas said among the issues raised included the lack of crossborder collaborations for migrants, lack of labour inspectors, as well as lack of coordination among agencies in the Council for Anti-Trafficking in Persons (MAPO).

“The holding of migrant workers’ passports is also concerning, it is a practice that prevents migrant workers from seeking help for fear of arrest.

“We, therefore, implore the government to enforce the Passport Act stringently to prevent employers and agents from holding the passports of migrant workers in any circumstances other than the need to renew work permits or register the migrant worker for a medical examination.

“The handcuffing of human trafficking victims is also disproportionate and unnecessary. The government has a duty to ensure that victims of human trafficking are treated with dignity and respect, and not as criminals,” he said, adding that the Malaysian Bar appealed to the government to end this practice immediately, should it still exist.

Additionally, he said there has been a lack of medical psychosocial care in which the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry responsible for shelters should work closely with the Health Ministry and the Malaysian Medical Association to provide the necessary care for victims of trafficking.

Meanwhile, Kalidas opined that some efforts that could be undertaken by the government include engaging with the migrant community organisations, foreign spouses, foreign language teachers, including embassy officials to ensure that interpretation services are adequately provided to victims of trafficking throughout the process.

He also said victims should have more communication with families, for example, through video calls or by allowing family members to visit them, where necessary, to ensure their mental wellbeing.

“We commend the government for its efforts in raising awareness via electronic media and other means. Nevertheless, we hope that the government will continue looking into methods to educate migrant workers at their workplaces on issues pertaining to human trafficking.

“The Malaysian Bar hopes that the government will engage with us and other stakeholders to implement more effective policies to combat human trafficking together,” Kalidas noted.