Authorities should work with civil society to combat human trafficking
4 March 2022
We refer to the statement by the Director of Criminal Investigations Department of Bukit Aman, Abdul Jalil Hassan (when) where he stated that enforcement agencies are working to combat human trafficking to improve its ranking in the US State Department Trafficking in Persons report.
We hope that this is a positive indicator that the matter is being looked at seriously.
We note that this was also reflected in some of the recent amendments to the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007 (‘ATIPSOM’). As demonstrated in the in the Top Glove case, human trafficking will draw the ire of the international community and result in adverse economic consequences to our country.
It is obvious amendments to the law itself would not automatically improve the trafficking situation in Malaysia.
The enforcement of ATIPSOM itself is woefully inadequate; the authorities have shown serious lack of understanding of human trafficking as evidenced by its treatment of victims of human trafficking, who are still subjected to detention and criminal punishment for immigration offences or prostitution.
Despite the existence of the Council for Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants (‘MAPO’) that was tasked to oversee the implementation of ATIPSOM, this problem has persisted. This is what deters victims of trafficking from making reports, which in turn makes it harder to enforce the Act.
Though the amendment to ATIPSOM has increased representation of members of non-governmental organisations within MAPO, this does not detract from the importance of further and more intense collaboration with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and activists who deal with victims of trafficking on a day to day basis.
Many reports and complaints of abuses by activists are still ignored, or worse yet, deferred for criminal prosecution instead.
Hence, if the government truly wishes to effectively combat human trafficking in Malaysia, they must seriously engage with activists and CSOs to fully understand the breadth of the problem, both in enforcement and the letter of the law.
Creating an open communication is the first step in identifying the problem that ultimately would lead to a better collaborative effort by everyone involved to deal with this problem once and for all.
Lawyers for Liberty