Malaysia's low rank human trafficking report 'too kind', says activist

Malaysia's automatic relegation to Tier 3 in the US's annual human trafficking report is long overdue, says a Selangor Anti-Human Trafficking Council member.

Filepic of migrants being detained in Malacca. | Astro Awani
Malaysia's recent downgrade by the US state department to be among the countries found to have performed the worst in dealing with human trafficking was 'too kind', as the situation in the country is in fact quickly deteriorating, said a local migrant activist.

Selangor Anti-Human Trafficking Council (Mapmas) member Abdul Aziz Ismail said there are many instances where the situation has become worse, urging the government to start engaging with NGOs.

“This Tier 3 rank is long overdue, and unless the government start to engage and talk with NGOs from source countries and us locals to dialogue on a proper solution, we won’t improve,” Abdul Aziz told Astro AWANI.

As example, Abdul Aziz cited the Auditor-General’s 2013 Report (Series 2) which said the Home Ministry’s database had failed to properly record the number of migrant workers in the country.

He also pointed to the governments' ambitious 6P amnesty programme which was supposed to register and legitimise migrant workers, and ultimately slowly reduce their numbers, but had "failed to produce results".

"The 6P programme itself was firstly supposed find out how many migrants there were but failed because there was so much outsourcing to third parties and abuse," he said.

Abdul Aziz also pointed to migrants who were already exploited by their employers, having their passports taken and not being paid, but were simply treated as criminals by the government.

“There is also the repeated refusal of the government to give these people who are already exploited freedom of movement, for them to find jobs. Even after there are clear case of abuse, there are no proper investigations by the authorities,” said Abdul Aziz.

On Friday, the US downgraded Malaysia to the lowest ranking in its US state department's Trafficking in Persons (TiP) report, a move which could result in economic sanctions and loss of development aid for the country.

The US department had noted that there was ample evidence of forced labour and sex trafficking in Malaysia, which was a “destination and, to a lesser extent, a source and transit country for men, women and children subjected to sex trafficking.”

Under Tier 1, are countries whose governments fully comply with the TVPA minimum standards. Most of the developed countries fall under this tier.

Tier 2 are 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. Most Asean countries such as Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam fall under this category.

Countries in Tier 3 are those whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.