Hakam notes with grave concern that Malaysia has been downgraded to “Tier 3” in the US Department of State’s 2021 Trafficking in Persons report. Tier 3 is the worst tier ranking in the report.
The report states: “The Government of Malaysia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore, Malaysia was downgraded to Tier 3.”
The report has highlighted the authorities’ failure to proactively identify victims; insufficient interagency coordination; inadequate victim services; and corruption and official complicity that facilitated trafficking and impeded anti-trafficking efforts.
The report has identified forced labour as the predominant trafficking crime in Malaysia. The report states: “The overwhelming majority of victims are among the estimated two million documented and the even greater number of undocumented workers in Malaysia”.
Debt-based coercion of migrants involving onerous recruitment fees has also been identified as a major issue in the report.
The report further states that the government did not adequately screen asylum seekers and refugees for indicators of trafficking.
Hakam notes that Malaysia may be subject to funding restrictions pursuant to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act 2000 for being placed on Tier 3.
Hakam states that the government of Malaysia has to take responsibility for the failure to combat and eliminate human trafficking, which is one of the most heinous crimes.
The hovernment of Malaysia has to take immediate steps to eliminate human trafficking in our country.
Hakam states that the steps taken should include:
- Revamp the present dysfunctional approach and put in place an efficient and effective system to combat and eliminate human trafficking
- Adopt and take effective steps to implement the “prioritised recommendations” in the report
- Make public and implement the recommendations made by the Independent Committee on the Management of Foreign Workers (2019)
- Implement an appropriate legal and administrative framework for migrants, including undocumented migrants, stateless persons, refugees and asylum seekers to ensure their rights are adequately protected and their vulnerability to human trafficking is removed
Dato’ Sri M Ramachelvam is deputy president of the National Society for Human Rights (Hakam)