SINGAPORE - The Singapore authorities have responded to an annual human trafficking report from the United States, saying that it "does not provide an accurate representation" of Singapore's efforts to tackle human trafficking.
In the Trafficking in Persons (Tip) report released earlier this week, the Republic retained - for the fifth year - its Tier 2 position on a four-tier ranking. This means that Singapore has not fully complied with US laws on human trafficking but is making "significant efforts" to do so.
"The (Singapore) government enacted its first trafficking-specific law, but sustained minimal efforts to prosecute and convict traffickers," the report noted of the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act that took effect in Singapore in March.
The US report also urged Singapore to ratify the 2000 UN Tip protocol, of which it is not a signatory.
Responding to queries, the Singapore Inter-agency Taskforce on Trafficking in Persons said that it has ensured that penalties under the local anti-trafficking law are commensurate with seriousness of the crimes.
The Prevention of Human Trafficking Act also meets international standards of the UN Tip protocol, it added.
The taskforce said it will "continue to work with partners to raise public awareness, facilitate victim reporting, refine the investigation processes and enhance the provision of care to victims".
The Tip report also noted that "many foreign workers assume large debts to recruitment agencies in both Singapore and their home countries, making them vulnerable to forced labour, including debt bondage".
"Victims are also compelled into sex or labour exploitation through illegal withholding of their pay, threats of forced repatriation without pay, restrictions on movement, and physical and sexual abuse," it added.