Reactions to proposed bill

The StopTraffickingSG campaign is a grouping of several human, workers and women's rights groups in Singapore.

The group yesterday released its reactions to a proposed Bill against human trafficking, which will be debated in Parliament next month.

Among some of the comments, the group felt that the proposed Bill lacked clear definitions and was too vague.

It was also not victim-centric, said Mr Jolovan Wham of Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics, a help group for foreign workers.

Here is how they suggest making the Bill more protective of victims of trafficking:

  • Trafficked migrant workers should not be detained. There are shelters in Singapore that receive state funding that are known to restrict victims' movements, said Mr Wham. According to StopTraffickingSG, the Bill also does not specify the prohibition of detention for trafficked victims. The group suggests that a clause indicating such victims "shall not be held in a detention centre, jail or prison prior to, during or after all civil, criminal or other legal or administrative proceedings" be added to the Bill.
  • Victims who overstay as well as perpetrators

of trafficking should not be caned, as the Bill allows for. StopTraffickingSG said it is against caning as several member organisations see it as "tantamount to torture and thus a violation of human rights". There is no evidence that caning results in increased deterrence, it added.

  • Give more protection to victims and witnesses of trafficking who may face intimidation or retaliation here from traffickers and their associates.
  • Victims should not be prosecuted for being an undocumented immigrant, for working "illegally" or for any illegal immigration infractions inadvertently committed while being trafficked. Victims also have the right to work and to a decent income while their case is ongoing. This is because victims face months, and sometimes years, of uncertainty waiting

as the police investigate cases and, where possible, take the accused to court.

  • Currently, the Bill allows for police and non-police enforcement officers to forcibly gain entry to premises without a warrant and allows them to be armed with batons if necessary. StopTraffickingSG believes it is unnecessary, as it may result in the secondary traumatisation of vulnerable victims of trafficking.