‘Separate Act needed for migrant worker smuggling’

Richard Loo Wai Hoong

Migrant rights NGO Tenaganita is still dissatisfied with the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act 2007 in tackling the smuggling of migrant workers, and wants separate legislation for better enforcement.

aegile fernandez - CRC walk“There should be a separate Act for the offence of smuggling migrant workers because the thin line between the definitions of trafficking victims and smuggled migrant workers is confusing,” said Aegile Fernandez (left), Tenaganita’s consultant manager for the anti-trafficking of humans unit.

“We’ve talked to our lawyers, who agree that it would be difficult for the various enforcement agencies to differentiate between the two,” she said.

Fernandez was responding to Deputy Home Minister Abu Seman Yusop’s statements at a press conference after officiating a march in Kuala Lumpur today to raise awareness of child sex trafficking.

A member of the Bar Council had, during the press conference, quizzed the minister about Human Rights Watch Asia division deputy director Philip Robertson’s remark that Malaysia was committing a “cardinal sin” for failing to differentiate between the trafficking and smuggling of people in the amendments to the Act.

migrant workers - CRC walkWira was adamant that the current Act was clear enough.

“I beg to differ. They are different elements that constitute two different offences. Both offences are clearly defined in the Act, so one must read it to understand clearly,” he said.

He added that the country need not worry about being downgraded in the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report because in this year’s report, Malaysia had ascended to the second tier watch list from the third.

Ready to ratify

Meanwhile, the deputy minister also announced that the government was finally ready to ratify the UN protocol complementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), saying they were not prepared to do so earlier.

“We were not ready because the infrastructure was not there. However, now we are more than ready to do so,” he said to loud applause from the crowd.

walk for CRC - wira abu seman yusopAbu Seman (right) shared with those present statistics of trafficking victims rescued in Malaysia and placed into protection shelters.

“1,656 victims from 19 countries were rescued and given an interim protection order. Only 484 of them were found to be genuine human trafficking victims, after investigations were conducted.”

“From this 484,291 of them are sex trafficking victims where 8.6 percent of them are under-age females.”

“Earlier this year, we launched a nine-point national action plan against trafficking in persons to focus on the efforts towards achieving the national goal to suppress the problem and outline the strategic directions for the next five years,” he added.

Speeding up prosecution

Abu Seman, who is the Tanah Masjid MP, also said that the attorney-general will work on speeding up the prosecution process for those charged with trafficking, by improving the training of prosecutors.

walk for CRCThe march (left) today was part of the ‘Petition Campaign to Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People’ organised by The Body Shop with several NGOS such as Tenaganita, PS Save the Children and Nursalam.

A crowd of about 250 marched from the main entrance of the Pavilion shopping centre to Berjaya Times Square and back.

Their objective was to pressure the Malaysian government to sign the optional protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography which complements the CRC.

The CRC aims to enhance the protection of children from sexual exploitation. Malaysia is the remaining of three countries in Southeast Asia that has not yet ratified the document.

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