Taskforce on human trafficking responds to NGO critique of proposed Bill

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Inter-agency Taskforce on Trafficking in Persons has addressed concerns by an activist group, stressing that the new Bill aimed to fight human trafficking will "deter, detect and deal with such crimes".

In a two-page letter addressed to Mr Jolovan Wham, executive director of Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home), the taskforce, spearheaded by the Home Affairs and Manpower ministries, said "where appropriate, ideas and suggestions have been incorporated" in the Prevention of Human Trafficking Bill.

It was in response to an 11-page critique of the Bill submitted by the activist group Stop Trafficking SG, made up of six non-govermental organisations, of which Home is one.

Stop Trafficking SG is lobbying for more clauses to be included in the Bill, including shielding victims from prosecution for immigration infractions and giving them the right to continue working while their cases are being dealt with. The group said the proposed new law, tabled by MP Christopher de Souza in Parliament on Oct 7, is a "good first step" but not comprehensive.

In response, the taskforce said: "In your letter, you highlighted the need to ensure that appropriate assistance is extended to victims of trafficking...Singapore has an integrated support system comprising both government agencies and voluntary welfare organisations to support victims of trafficking.

"You also touched on compensation for victims. This is already provided for under the Criminal Procedure Code."

It also emphasised that enforcement agencies "have always benchmarked practices to international standards", and clarified some figures shared by the group.

"You noted that the government substantiated only 24 sex trafficking cases and one labour trafficking case, after investigating 294 new labour cases and 53 sex trafficking cases last year," it said. "(But the 294 cases) referred to enquiries and feedback relating to an array of issues...Only a minority were found to be suspected trafficking cases."

The taskforce also thanked the group for its interest in the topic and feedback, and encouraged it to give any other specific proposals to combat human trafficking.