To whom much has been given, much is expected
With the first National Plan of Action (NPA) against trafficking in Singapore coming to an end in 2015, a public consultation was organised on 27 May by the Trafficking-in-persons taskforce for views to formulate the next anti-trafficking plan.
There was no lack of enthusiasm among the group of about 25 participants. However, some found it difficult to give more concrete recommendations because no meaningful evaluation of how effective the NPA was shared.
Ideas on monitoring and enforcement of the new anti-trafficking legislation were raised but it remains to be seen if they will be given serious consideration by the Taskforce.
Public consultations are important to ellicit the vieww of civil society and those who are concered about combating human trafficking. Without the ownership and participation of the community, anti-trafficking initiatives cannot succeed.
Employers of migrant workers, be they individual households or companies, are responsible for the living and working conditions of their workers. How employers treat their workers can increase or decrease their risk of being trafficked. Members of the public empowered to call NGOs or the police when they encounter a potential trafficked victim is a vigilant frontline force against trafficking.
Hence, more has to be done to raise awareness of the fact that trafficking does occur in Singapore, and that everyone has a role to play to stop trafficking. In fact, in the case of Singapore, members of the public need to know that they may be complicit in trafficking.
Last year, HOME successfully filed 2 cases of foreign domestic workers who were trafficked. They were accepted as victims of trafficking. In a separate case, a worker who was trafficked was hired by local food & beverage businesses. The employers could be found to be complicit in trafficking.
Raising more awareness among migrant population of the risks of trafficking should also be an integral part of any national anti-trafficking plan. When workers who have paid hefty recruitment fees arrived in Singapore to discover that the nature or conditions of their job have changed, they are often coerced into accepting the less favourable arrangements because of their debts.
With the NPA drawing to a close, we hope the Taskforce can share more about the outcomes of the plan and on how effective their anti-trafficking efforts have been. HOME urges the Taskforce to initiate an independent evaluation of the outcomes of the NPA and to publish and share it with the public. The same public whose views are sought.