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Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Human Trafficking in Singapore

Modern-day slavery exists. 

In light of Amnesty International Day on May 28, we bring forward an issue that is often left undiscussed. 

How do we define human trafficking?

According to the United Nation Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), human trafficking has three constituent elements; the act (what is done), the means (how it is done), and the purpose (why it is done). Examples include: 

What is Human Trafficking?
Source: www.unodc.org

Human trafficking in Singapore? Really? 

Yes. Human trafficking in Singapore includes cases of labour and sex trafficking, and domestic servitude. Child sex trafficking also happens here.

UNODC points out that “the consent of the trafficked person becomes irrelevant whenever any of the ‘means’ (how it is done) of trafficking is used.” 

What is Singapore doing to prevent human trafficking?

The Singapore inter-agency taskforce on Trafficking in Persons (TIP) was established in 2010 to implement holistic, co-ordinated strategies to combat TIP more effectively.

The taskforce is co-led by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), and includes representatives from various government agencies. Read more about it here, and the national approach against TIP here

Singapore Inter-Agency Taskforce on Trafficking in Persons

Singapore has also ratified the ASEAN Convention against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (ACTIP) in January 2016, which aims to work with regional partners in jointly preventing TIP.

In September 2015, Singapore acceded to the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (UN TIP Protocol), which seeks to prevent and battle TIP, protect and assist trafficked victims, and promote co-operation among states parties.

How is human trafficking viewed in the eyes of the law in Singapore?

The Prevention of Human Trafficking Act (PHTA), which serves to deter cases of TIP and supports the rehabilitation of trafficked victims, took effect from 1 March 2015. 

Under the law, it is an offence for a person to knowingly receive payment in connection with the exploitation of a trafficked victim, and offenders will be dealt with severe penalties.

Law enforcement officers from the Singapore Police Force, Ministry of Manpower, and Ministry of Health are also granted specific powers to investigate TIP-related offences under the PHTA.

The welfare of trafficked victims is also covered under the PHTA and the law also encourages the public to report of trafficking or suspected trafficking activity.

Has the law been effective? 

In May 2016, a man and his wife were the first to be charged for labour trafficking under PHTA. Read more about the case here

However, some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) feel that more can be done to define key concepts outlined in the PHTA as there are still some grey areas in determining whether an individual may be a victim of trafficking. This link gives two examples of such cases in Singapore. 

What can I do to help?

EmancipAsia suggests you should:

  • Find out more about human trafficking by reading on the issue
  • Start a discussion on what you’ve learned among your friends
  • Make a police report if you suspect cases of human trafficking (Read this to recognise the signs)
  • Understand the supply chain of products sold and consumed in Singapore and make informed consumer choices whenever you can
  • Understand the employment conditions of domestic workers and foreign workers help to prevent labour trafficking and domestic servitude in Singapore 
  • Support and donate to platforms that help survivors rebuild their lives
  • Build capabilities in poor communities to help reduce poverty, which is one of the root causes of human trafficking 

How can I learn more about human trafficking issues in Singapore?

Get in touch with these organisations to find out how you can join the fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery in Singapore and the region. 

By Muneerah Bee, May 2016 

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