SINGAPORE: Singapore is currently drafting a National Plan of Action for the country to tackle both sex and labour trafficking.

It is also studying the possibility of future accession to the United Nations Trafficking in Persons Protocol.

These points were made by Singapore’s Inter-Agency Taskforce on Trafficking in Persons in response to the announcement that Singapore was upgraded to “Tier 2” from “Tier 2 Watchlist” in the recent US Trafficking in Persons Report 2011.

The taskforce said that as Singapore grows as a hub for travel, tourism and economic activity, it expects to become an increasingly attractive potential destination for human trafficking syndicates.

So the country recognises the need to continually step up efforts in increasing vigilance and responsiveness towards this threat.

The taskforce is co-chaired by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

It coordinates anti-trafficking initiatives and policy alignment between government agencies in Singapore.

The taskforce includes representatives from the Singapore Police Force, Immigration & Checkpoints Authority of Singapore, Ministry of Community Development, Youth & Sports, Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

The formation of the taskforce underscores the seriousness with which the government views trafficking and aims to improve efforts in tackling this abhorrent international crime.

To fight trafficking, Singapore adopts a 4 ‘P’s strategy aimed at prevention, prosecution, protection and partnership.

This strategy emphasises constructing safeguards against human trafficking, prosecuting perpetrators, protecting victims and cooperating with other governments and civil society to encourage reporting and information sharing.

On its Monday’s meeting in Singapore with Mr Luis Cdebaca, the US Ambassador-at-Large for Trafficking in Persons Matters, the taskforce said it took the opportunity to clarify factual inaccuracies within the US TIP Report’s country narrative on Singapore.

The report had stated that “the government did not prosecute or convict any offenders of labour trafficking during the reporting period”.

But Singapore had previously informed the US that it had prosecuted eight labour trafficking cases as reported.

On claims that there were “no criminal prosecutions or convictions of employers or employment agencies who withheld passports of foreign workers”, Singapore had informed the US that three employment agencies were prosecuted in 2010 for persistently withholding of workers’ passports and fined between S$1,200 and S$2,000.

The Singapore government also investigates complaints of wrongful confinement of workers by repatriation companies.

In 2010, a staff member of a repatriation company was sent to jail for voluntarily causing hurt.

The employers of the foreign workers were given stern warnings for abetment to wrongful restraint.

Singapore stresses that it takes a serious view of crimes related to trafficking in persons and is constantly reviewing laws, policies and enforcement practices to better address the issue. – CNA/ir,