PETALING JAYA: Malaysia has not done enough to combat human trafficking in the country, says human rights activist James Nayagam.
Speaking on the 2016 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report of the United States, Nayagam said that Malaysia does not deserve its recent Tier 2 Watch List ranking.
“To be honest, I think Malaysia deserves a Tier 3 ranking (the lowest rank) because we are not moving forward fast enough,” he said, adding that human trafficking is still a big problem in the country.
However, Nayagam said that the reason why Malaysia cannot be in the Tier 3 watchlist is because they are a signatory to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).
In June last year, the American congress passed a bill that barred them from entering into trade agreements with nations on tier-three of the list.
“This proves that the report has lost its taste, there’s no bite,” said Nayagam.
Nayagam, who works closely with victims, says that trafficking victims are often exploited and are not protected.
“Can (human trafficking) victims feel safe in Malaysia? The answer is no.
“They are raped, abused, exploited. They are trapped here and have their passports taken away.
“There has been no substantial initiative to help these victims,” he said.
Nayagam also said that Malaysia has not acted on many of the recommendations listed in previous TIP reports.
“If you compare the recommendations from 2010 to now, many of the points are repeated.
“This clearly shows that we are not doing enough,” he said.
Increased prosecution, better law enforcement, training of officials, victim identification and victim protection are some of the recommendations that have been repeated over the years.
This year’s report again identified Malaysia as a “destination and, to a much lesser extent, source and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour and women and a small number of children subjected to sex trafficking”.
The report also highlighted how some migrants are subjected to “forced labour or debt bondage by their employers, employment agents, or informal labour recruiters when they are unable to pay the fees for recruitment and associated travel”.
Corruption among immigration and police officers, that impedes efforts to address trafficking, was also cited in the report.
The report acknowledged the amendments to the existing anti-trafficking law to reform its victim protection system.
It also mentioned the Government’s efforts to provide trafficking victims with employment opportunities.
However, it also stated that only four victims were issued work permits and two of the four left their jobs. Many other victims also declined to participate with the program, citing their desire to return home instead.
The report said how the Government maintained a “dedicated anti-trafficking police force”, but added that Malaysia did not convict employers for unauthorized retention of passports.
The lack of prosecution over the mass graves discovered on the Thai border in 2015 was also mentioned, despite the Government having questioned several officials over the matter.