S’pore says it doesn’t have serious trafficking problem

Simeon Bennett

Singapore doesn’t have a serious human trafficking problem, its government said in a response to a U.S. State Department report that said the city-state had regressed in its battle against the practice.

The State Department last month put Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam on a watchlist of middle-tier countries for trafficking, one level above the worst offenders such as North Korea, Myanmar and Saudi Arabia. Singapore showed an “inadequate response” to sex trafficking with only two convictions last year, and didn’t prosecute anybody under its forced labor laws, the report said.

The report’s reliance on reported and prosecution figures was “superficial and perfunctory at best,” the government said in a six-page response received today by e-mail. The low numbers show that Singapore’s approach to combating trafficking in persons, or TIP, has been effective, it said.

“Different countries adopt different approaches and it is a matter of what works for each country,” the government said. “Singapore will continue with its calibrated and pragmatic approach to TIP issues, and review this if necessary, rather than blindly follow a one-for-all operating model just to achieve a better technical ranking on the US TIP Report.”

Singapore’s police conducted 2,600 anti-vice operations and arrested 7,614 women for suspected vice activities last year, compared with 1,400 operations and 5,047 arrests in 2008, according to the statement. A total of 476 employers were prosecuted for breaching their employment obligations, last year. Authorities investigated 32 cases of alleged trafficking, and prosecuted two, the government said.

“A low absolute number of reported and convicted cases is therefore no basis for concluding that Singapore has a serious TIP problem,” the government said. “Singapore takes a stern view of practices leading to the exploitation or abuse of vulnerable persons and we investigate and prosecute such offences vigorously.”


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