PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim should personally engage with victims of human trafficking and forced labour to address Malaysia’s Tier 3 ranking in the US State Department’s 2022 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, a migrant rights activist said.
North-South Initiative (NSI) executive director Adrian Pereira told FMT that by personally engaging with trafficking victims, Anwar could identify agents who had been profiteering from migrant worker recruitment.
He said Malaysia had been unable to control employers and labour suppliers who were trafficking workers into the country.
Yesterday, home minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said the government was committed to improving the country’s Tier 3 ranking in last year’s TIP report.
In 2017, Malaysia was placed in Tier 2, meaning that even though Putrajaya did not comply with the US’ minimum standards, the nation had made significant efforts.
However, the ranking dropped to the Tier-2 Watch List from 2018 to 2020.
This means that even though a government has made significant efforts to comply with the minimum standards, it faces a significant number or an increase in trafficking victims.
Malaysia fell to the lowest rank of Tier 3 in 2021 and 2022.
The TIP Report describes those ranked at Tier 3 as governments that are not compliant and not making significant efforts to be compliant with the minimum standards to deal with human trafficking.
“He (Anwar) must come to the ground and meet the workers … the paper trail is there.
“I’m sure employers and agents will be able to explain who the people getting the kickbacks are, from both within and outside the government,” Pereira said.
He said the largest negative impact of human trafficking and forced labour in the country was on Malaysians themselves.
“As long as companies and agents take advantage of migrant workers or trafficking victims, the general benefits of all workers will be affected.
“We’re going to be stuck in this middle-income trap because we are becoming a low-wage-dependent country and won’t be able to step up to a highly skilled workforce,” he said.
Former Klang MP Charles Santiago said the Anwar-led administration should make tackling human trafficking a priority as it was in line with the Malaysia Madani concept.
He said Malaysia was still a “long way” from moving out of its Tier 3 TIP ranking.
“You have to show in a systematic way that you have a workable plan, one that shows an increase in enforcement and number of human trafficking cases brought to court.
“We need a concerted effort on the part of the government, namely from the home and human resources ministries to work together, to ensure that there is a mechanism in place at every point,” he told FMT.