Singapore’s Inter-Agency Taskforce on Trafficking in Persons (TIP) has singled out “several inaccuracies and misrepresentations” in the latest US State Department report on human trafficking.
One of them states that Singapore employers can submit complaints about worker behavior to impose future employment bars on foreigner workers. “This is untrue,” said the Taskforce in a four-page statement on Friday. “Singapore employers do not possess powers to place employment bars on foreign workers. Employment bars are imposed by MOM on foreign workers who have been found to have infringed Singapore laws and regulations.”
The TIP report released on June 20 placed Singapore in Tier 2 – same as last year – meaning that while the Singapore government does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, it is making “significant efforts” to do so.
On Friday, the Taskforce said factual inaccuracies included wrong prosecution figures stated in the report. The US State Department’s report stated that the government had convicted four sex trafficking offenders last year. In fact, authorities here said they prosecuted five cases with at least one accused convicted in 2011.
The US report had also stated that for material witnesses, the government generally held the victims’ passports and declined their requests for repatriation. The taskforce explained that presence of witnesses in Singapore is necessary for the successful prosecution of human trafficking offenders.
Victims who are identified to be suitable prosecution witnesses will be requested to remain in Singapore as prosecution witnesses. The taskforce said the decision to remain is theirs, and it will facilitate the departure of witnesses who do not wish to stay on in Singapore as prosecution witnesses.
While the report claimed that the government did not demonstrate increased efforts to apply stringent penalties to convicted offenders and traffickers were given low penalties, the Taskforce pointed out that Singapore’s trafficking offences carry penalties of up to 10 years. A commercial sex operator involved in a sex trafficking case was jailed for five years in April this year, noted the Taskforce.
Reiterating that the Singapore “is serious” in combating human trafficking, the Taskforce said it has met with the US Embassy here to convey the inaccuracies and misrepresentations. It added that as Singapore progresses in its anti-trafficking efforts, it calls on the US to improve the credibility of the State Department’s annual report by ensuring greater accuracy of facts and by making the Report’s methodology more objective.
This, it said, will ensure that “a consistent, transparent, and measurable standard is applied across all countries”, and “a better understanding of the different legal structures and domestic contexts of countries ranked in the report are taken into account”.