Activist group says human-trafficking law does not go far enough

A new law to combat human trafficking does not have sufficient measures to ensure the protection of victims, claims activist group Stop Trafficking SG. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
A new law to combat human trafficking does not have sufficient measures to ensure the protection of victims, claims activist group Stop Trafficking SG. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A new law to combat human trafficking does not have sufficient measures to ensure the protection of victims, an activist group said on Tuesday.

The Prevention of Human Trafficking Act, initiated by Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC), was passed in Parliament on Monday.

The Stop Trafficking SG group - made up of six non-government organisations (NGOs) and advocacy groups - reiterated the Act should include provisions that give victims the right to work as cases are being investigated, and the right to not be prosecuted, for immigration offences for instance. It has raised these points about the law on several occasions previously.

Including these provisions in the act was "necessary", said the group's campaign manager Tam Peck Hoon. Doing so "centred on the most critical point of combating trafficking - empowering victims to report and assist prosecutions," she added.

Mr de Souza said in Parliament on Monday that some victims may prefer not to work but choose to recover in a shelter instead. But Stop Trafficking SG said the option to work should still be provided because of the "financial burdens trafficked victims face in providing for their families and paying off debts incurred to recruiters".

With police investigations taking months to complete, victims may not want to file complaints if they cannot work in the meantime, it added.

The right to not be prosecuted should also be included in the Act so victims would be "empowered to seek help", said Ms Tam. Victims who have been deceived or coerced into illegal work, or who have overstayed their visas, are unlikely to seek help if they could be prosecuted, she said.

Meanwhile, the Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC) said in a statement on Tuesday that it was encouraged that the Act was passed, and was ready to support authorities' efforts in combating human trafficking.

MWC chairman Yeo Guat Kwang said the centre was committed to detecting trafficking cases, providing shelter to victims and witnesses, and getting regular feedback on the strengths and gaps in the law when it is implemented.