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S’pore not doing enough to curb human trafficking, says US

The United States (US) has classified Singapore as “Tier 2 Watch List” when it comes to human trafficking, a downgrade from the “Tier 2” classification it previously received.

The Trafficking in Persons Report 2010 by the US Department of State said, “Singapore is a destination country for women and girls subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced prostitution, and for some migrant workers in conditions that may be indicative of forced labor.”

"Tier 2 Watch List" is defined as follows:

"Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards, AND: a) the absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is significantly increasing; b) there is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year; or, c) the determination that a country is making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with minimum standards was based on commitments by the country to take additional future steps over the next year."

The US report highlighted the recruitment of women into Singapore from Thailand, the Philippines and China “with offers of legitimate employment but upon arrival in Singapore, are deceived or coerced into forced prostitution.”

“Deceptive recruitment or subsequent coercion into commercial sexual exploitation may also happen to women from other countries, including India and Sri Lanka,” the report says.

Singapore is ranked together with Asian countries such as Laos, Thailand, Maldives, Afghanistan and Brunei on the watch list.

“Some reports suggest organized crime groups may be involved in international sex trafficking of women and children to Singapore,” the 2010 report says. “Some foreign women in ‘forest brothels’ located on public lands near migrant worker dormitories are reportedly victims of trafficking. It is believed substantial recruitment networks may be operating in order to continue the supply of women trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation in Singapore. Based on data published as recently as 2008, Singaporean men continue to be a source of demand for child sex tourism in Southeast Asia.

The US Department of States says the Government of Singapore, while not fully complying with “the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking… it is making significant efforts to do so.”

However, despite this, Singapore’s ranking has been downgraded. The report explains why: “[The] quantifiable indicators of anti-trafficking prosecution and victim protection – which this report emphasizes – indicate no increasing efforts to prosecute and punish forced labor offenses or to identify both victims of sex trafficking and victims of forced labor.” It called the Singapore government’s response to sex trafficking in the island state “inadequate” and that “ the government could and should be more successful in finding, prosecuting, and punishing those responsible for human trafficking.”

While there are several laws which gives the government power to prosecute those involved in trafficking – such as  the Penal Code, Women’s Charter, Children and Young Persons Act, Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, Employment Agencies Act, Employment Agency Rules, and the Conditions of Work Permits – the report says the Singapore government “demonstrated limited law enforcement efforts to combat trafficking in persons during the year.”

To illustrate this inadequacy in government response, the Department gave this example:

“The government investigated 32 reports of sex trafficking during the year, of which two were confirmed by officials to be trafficking cases and prosecuted. In one case, five Thai women were brought into Singapore and forced into prostitution; their Thai recruiters were convicted and sentenced to prison terms of 19 months and 18 months. In the other case involving a Thai girl who was a sex trafficking victim, a Singaporean brothel owner was sentenced to nine weeks’ imprisonment and a $20,000 fine, an inadequate punishment for commercial sexual exploitation of a child. Singapore police arrested 89 children for prostitution offenses during 2009, all of whom should have been identified as trafficking victims. Police investigated four of those cases as potential sex trafficking cases, resulting in one successful prosecution of a trafficker, as noted above. The government did not report why police did not treat the other 85 children as potential trafficking victims.

The Singapore government “continued to deny that trafficking was a significant problem in Singapore”, the report says, “and did not make public any information concerning the extent of the problem.”

“ Authorities did not have any institutionalized, interagency structures to address trafficking, and did not have an action plan to combat trafficking. The government unilaterally canceled an anti-trafficking training, to be provided by a foreign government, citing commitments involved in Singapore’s new integrated casino resorts.”

US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, presented the Department’s annual report in Washington June 15.

"All of us have a responsibility to bring this practice to an end," she said.

“This human rights abuse is universal,” Mrs Clinton said, “and no one should claim immunity from its reach or from the responsibility to confront it."

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Read the full US Dept report here: Trafficking In Person Report 2010.

And : Sound Out, a campaign to stop sex trafficking in Singapore.

And: Sexual slavery tolerated in Singapore by The Bangkok Post.

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