Drop in trafficking index being looked at

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KUALA LUMPUR: A special court to hear human trafficking cases should be set up as delays in the prosecution of traffickers is one of the issues brought up by the United States authorities concerning Malaysia’s record in this field, Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said yesterday.

Replying to a question from Julian Tan Kok Ping (DAP-Stampin [Sarawak]) on the country’s downgrade to Tier 3 in the US government’s annual Trafficking of Persons report, Zahid said he had discussed the matter with the US authorities, including the Department of Homeland Security.

“Our downgrade is automatic, because we have been on Tier 2 for three years consecutively. But I have set up a high-level committee in which five ministries are involved and I personally chair the meetings and coordinate with the ministries. We also work with NGOs that offer protection to victims,” said Zahid.

In a supplementary question, Tan said that despite all its efforts, Malaysia had dropped to Tier 3, the same as Thailand which is known for its sex industry.

“We hear cases of passports being confiscated by powerful syndicates and the good name of the police is compromised over claims that they are offering protection to these syndicates.

“International reports are causing our country to be seen as a human trafficking hub, so the public wishes to see strong action by the government. This can be proven by taking us back to Tier 1; this should be the government’s KPI (key performance indicator),” said Tan. Zahid said efforts have been stepped up, including increasing border patrols and surveillance at hotspots in the north and south of the peninsula.

Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin (BN-Kinabatangan [Sabah]) said that visas-on-arrival could be contributing to the problem. Those supposedly coming in as tourists could in fact be victims of trafficking. “Malaysia ... is increasingly seen as a processing hub for the human trafficking trade when ... it is not true, but a situation created by syndicates,” he said, in questioning the methods being used to defeat these gangs.

“I hope for greater efforts to curb human trafficking, including  prosecution, which is a bone of contention of the US towards Malaysia,” said Zahid. — The Malaysian Insider

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on October 9, 2014.