Activist group wants Bill to prevent human trafficking to be beefed up

SINGAPORE - A new Bill aimed at preventing human trafficking is a "very good first step", but is not comprehensive and needs to be beefed up to better protect victims, said an activist group on Tuesday.

The Stop Trafficking SG group, comprising six non-government organisations (NGOs), repeated a call for more clauses to be included in the Bill and a clearer definition on what is considered a trafficking case at a press conference on Tuesday. It said not enough is being done to protect and help victims, who may not speak out against their employers or traffickers because they fear being repatriated.

The NGOs include the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home), Maruah and Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware).

Mr Jolovan Wham of Home said: ""There is concern that if the Bill is too victim-centric, people may identify themselves as victims. (But) we cannot deny rights to a majority, because we are afraid that a minority would identify themselves as victims when they are not."

Tabled by Mr Christopher de Souza, MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, the Bill was introduced in Parliament on Oct 7. It formally defines human trafficking, empowers specialist officers to investigate suspected traffickers, and sets out harsh penalties for those found guilty of trafficking or abetting such activities.

The three other NGOs in the group are anti-human trafficking group Project X, Singapore Committee for UN Women and Transient Workers Count Too.

Earlier this month, the group submitted a petition to include the additional clauses to Mr de Souza. Mr de Souza had told The Straits Times he will consider working the points from the petition into the Bill's second reading, which is expected to be in the first week of November.