Trade or Human Rights? Integrity of State Department Trafficking Report Still an Open Question — Charlie Fanning

Source: AFL-CIO

BY CHARLIE FANNING

06/30/2016. The State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report is a powerful tool to hold governments accountable for their failures to prevent human trafficking. The report ranks governments worldwide into one of three tiers based on their efforts to combat and prevent trafficking and forced labor, with the lowest ranking of tier three carrying economic sanctions. The release of the 2016 report has been met with mixed reviews from labor and anti-trafficking groups.

In recent years, the administration has politicized the ranking of certain countries to fit its trade and economic agenda rather than prioritizing people’s right to live in freedom. Last year, after the State Department upgraded Malaysia—a potential Trans-Pacific Partnership trading partner—from tier three, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said: “The administration appears to be resolute in forging a flawed trade agreement with countries that currently violate fundamental labor and human rights.”

This year, the administration doubled down on the mistake and failed to downgrade Malaysia, despite reports that grueling working conditions for migrant workers remain the norm. Indeed, the Nepal Embassy recently reported that some 2,945 Nepalese migrant workers died on the job in Malaysia in the past 10 years—an average of nearly one worker per day. Read more

Malaysia remain in the Tier 2 Watch List in the latest Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report 2016 by the US State Department

OFFICE TO MONITOR AND COMBAT TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS
June 30, 2016

MALAYSIA: Tier 2 Watch List

Malaysia is a destination and, to a much lesser extent, source and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and women and a small number of children subjected to sex trafficking. The majority of trafficking victims are among the estimated two million documented and an even greater number of undocumented migrant laborers in Malaysia. Foreign workers—primarily from Indonesia, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Nepal, India, Burma, and other Southeast Asian countries—typically migrate voluntarily to Malaysia to pursue better economic opportunities. Some of these migrants are subjected to forced labor or debt bondage by their employers, employment agents, or informal labor recruiters when they are unable to pay the fees for recruitment and associated travel. Foreign workers employed by outsourcing or contract labor companies, which may or may not have oversight of personnel issues or day-to-day working conditions, have heightened vulnerabilities to exploitative labor conditions and a reduced ability to resolve disputes. Agents in labor source countries may impose onerous fees on workers before they arrive in Malaysia, in some cases causing debt bondage. Foreign workers in Malaysia and the companies which employ them are subject to a range of government fees for immigration processing, foreign worker levies, and other administrative processes. The law allows many of the fees, which are initially paid by employers, to be deducted from workers’ wages, incentivizing employers to prevent workers from ending their employment before fees are recouped. Government regulations placed the burden of paying some immigration and employment authorization fees on foreign workers; this practice makes workers more susceptible to debt bondage. Authorities report organized crime syndicates are responsible for some instances of trafficking. Corruption among immigration and police officers remains a problem and impedes efforts to address trafficking. Read more

Survey ranks Malaysia highly for medical care, but behind Pakistan, Sierra Leone for rights

Source: The Malay Mail Online

Infographic taken from MMO

Infographic taken from MMO

KUALA LUMPUR, June 30 ― Malaysians enjoy basic healthcare that is comparable to some developed countries but also face restrictions on civil liberties more severe than in repressive regimes such as Pakistan and Sierra Leone, according to a recent survey.

The Social Progress Index 2016 released this month by the Social Progress Imperative, an international network that pushes for social change, showed Malaysia ranked 50th out of 133 countries overall, falling four spots from the previous survey.

The survey measured countries’ social progress on three broad categories: “Basic Human Needs”, which comprises public safety and access to nutrition, basic medical care, water, and housing; “Foundations of Wellbeing” that measures access to basic education and information, as well as environmental protection; and “Opportunity” that measures personal rights, freedom, prejudices in society, as well as access to advanced education.

Malaysia was 38th and scored an overall 88.45 out of 100 for the “Basic Human Needs” indicator. It performed especially well in terms of nutrition and access to basic medical care (97.24 out of 100) followed by access to water and housing.

But the country’s score was weighed down by its performance on personal rights. It ranked 101st and scored just 32.52 out of 100 on the personal rights indicator that comprises political rights, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly or association, freedom of movement and private property rights.

Malaysia placed lower than Pakistan, Indonesia and Singapore in this area, even falling below poor African countries like Sierra Leone. Read more

In Malaysia, Syrian migrants speak of harrowing torture in Syria

Source: The Malay Mail Online

A Syrian man reads the Quran after a mass prayer session during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan at the Harran refugee camp in Sanliurfa province, Turkey June 7, 2016. — Reuters pic

A Syrian man reads the Quran after a mass prayer session during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan at the Harran refugee camp in Sanliurfa province, Turkey June 7, 2016. — Reuters pic

SHAH ALAM — It is hard for peace-loving Malaysians to imagine ceaseless war. But for a doughty bunch of Syrian migrants, it was all there for many years.

Thanks to the efforts of the Coalition of Humanitarian NGOs for Syria, 68 people are now settled in the country after being moved from one refugee camp to another since fleeing their conflict-ridden homeland.

The migrants were vetted by Home Ministry officials, who ensured they had no ties with the government of Bashar al-Assad, ISIS, the Free Syrian Army, or any other political faction in the civil war. Any connections, even the most remote, merited automatic disqualification.

Yet the adults of these 17 families will never forget the horrors they witnessed first-hand during the early years of the Syrian Civil War, which erupted in 2011.

Abdullah, 26, was a former military officer under the government of Syria’s strongman, who once worked in a four-storey prison where dissidents were subjected to torture. Sickened by what he saw, he eventually turned against al-Assad and fled with his wife Nur S., also 26.

“The most common method of breaking you was to tie your arms above your head and leave you in that position for 10 days. Either that or arms pulled and tied behind your back, or one arm and leg pulled back for that period,” he said, as some of his compatriots gestured in illustration. Read more