Suhakam moots RCI to address human trafficking after downgrade in US report

Immigration Department personnel round up foreign workers during a raid on a construction site in Cyberjaya June 6, 2021. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Immigration Department personnel round up foreign workers during a raid on a construction site in Cyberjaya June 6, 2021. — Picture by Hari Anggara

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KUALA LUMPUR, July 5 — The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia ( Suhakam) today urged the government to look into Malaysia’s downgrade to the lowest ranking in a closely watched annual report on human trafficking by the US State Department. 

The US Department of State 2021 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) downgraded Malaysia to Tier 3 — the lowest tier for failing to fully meet the minimum standards for elimination of trafficking in persons and not making significant efforts to ensure compliance, even considering the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity.

Suhakam said while the government did take some initiative to address the issue such as identifying and providing protection services to victims of trafficking, it was still not enough and suggested a Royal Commission of Inquiry be conducted. 

“The TIP Report highlighted that the government continues to conflate human trafficking and migrant smuggling crimes and did not adequately address the allegations of human trafficking.

“In view of the gravity of the Tier 3 status, Suhakam urges the government to establish a Royal Commission of Inquiry pursuant to the TIP Report and focus its attention on the implementation of the recommendations,” Suhakam said in a statement this afternoon. 

They also urged the government to release the report and findings of the Royal Commission of Inquiry on human trafficking camps and graves in Wang Kelian.

Suhakam said the government should also make public the report and recommendations of the Special Independent Committee on Foreign Worker Management and expedite implementation of the recommendations which considered issues of unethical, unhealthy, and unfair practices in the recruitment of foreign workers. 

Suhakam said it supports the government's proposal to amend the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007 to provide amongst others, stricter punishment as part of efforts to curb human trafficking activities by syndicates in Malaysia.

“A definition of forced labour should also be included as part of the amendment. Further, the government is urged to amend the current labour laws, to ensure the rights of workers are adequately safeguarded.

“Therefore, Suhakam reiterates the call by Yang di-Pertuan Agong for Parliament to be reconvened as soon as possible,” they said.

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