The US State Department has placed Malaysia on the Tier 2 Watch List again in its latest Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report. The report, which is produced annually, said the Malaysian government did not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but was making significant efforts to do so.
“However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared with the previous year,” said the report which was released on Thursday.
Countries on Tier 2 are those that do not fully meet the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to meet those standards.
The Tier 2 Watch List is similar to Tier 2, but with three additional criteria, including the failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts, or where the number of victims is significant or increased.
The latest report stated that efforts made by Malaysia included convicting slightly more traffickers, issuing a significant number of passes for victims’ freedom of movement from shelters and establishing an additional shelter for adult female trafficking victims, although it had not yet served victims.
It said Malaysia was continuing to overhaul its foreign worker management system.
However, it said the government identified far fewer victims than in previous years and authorities investigated and prosecuted fewer cases, adding that the government’s victim protection efforts remained inadequate and some rehabilitation services such as medical care, telephone calls, freedom of movement and issuance of work permits were inconsistently implemented, if at all.
“The government stopped funding NGOs to provide shelter. Corruption related to processes for foreign nationals to work in Malaysia remained pervasive and the government did not report initiating new prosecutions or convicting any complicit officials during the reporting period,” it said.
The report also made 14 recommendations, including training officials on standard operating procedure for victim identification; increasing efforts to prosecute and convict more trafficking cases; and making public the results of investigations on corrupt officials.
Other recommendations included expanding cooperation with NGOs, increasing the number of trafficking victims who obtain approval for employment, and taking steps to eliminate recruitment or placement fees charged to workers by Malaysian labour recruiters.
In the 2017 TIP report, Malaysia was upgraded to Tier 2 from the Tier 2 Watch List but slipped back to the Watch List last year. Between 2006 and 2018, Malaysia was classified as Tier 2 Watch List nine times.
Tenaganita co-director Aegile Fernandez said the ranking was “deserved” as not much effort had been put into solving human trafficking in the past year.
“There doesn’t seem to be any political will,” she said.