KUALA LUMPUR, June 28 — The US State Department’s move to drop Malaysia from its people smuggling watch list yesterday belies the latter’s “mediocre” efforts in the area, according to the Human Rights Watch.
HRW’s deputy director for Asia Phil Robertson complained that Malaysia made no effort to identify the different categories of people smuggling, which allowed debt-bonded foreign workers to escape classification as victims of human trafficking.
Other problems such as overcrowded detention facilities, failure to institute the “moderate” reforms promised, and corruption among enforcement officials made further mockery of Malaysia’s removal from the department’s Tier 2 Watch List in its latest Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, he added.
“For the second year in a row, it’s no exaggeration to say the section on Malaysia undermines the credibility of TIP report,” he said in a statement.
“In fact, some of the justifications for ‘progress’ in Malaysia’s record are as clear as mud, and would be laughable if the rights issues at hand were not so serious.”
Malaysia was removed from the Tier 2 Watch List in the TIP 2017 report released last night, but remained in the Tier 2 category.
The US State Department said that while Malaysia did not meet the minimum standards required to be free of human trafficking, the country made “significant efforts” that justified its removal from the watch list.
Malaysia was upgraded from the bottom Tier 3 to the Tier 2 Watch List in the 2015 TIP report, but US lawmakers had criticised the move as an apparent concession to prevent the country from being excluded from the now-abandoned Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.