Bali Process Co Chairs,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
On behalf of the Government of Malaysia, I would like to warmly welcome all of you to Kuala Lumpur for the Bali Process Workshop on Protection for Victims of Trafficking in Persons. First and foremost, please allow me to accord our utmost appreciation to the Bali Process regional group particularly to the Co-Chairs, Indonesia and Australia for the confidence and trusts given to Malaysia to organise this workshop. I would also like to express our gratitude to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) for their readiness to collaborate with the Ministry of Home Affairs in co-hosting this workshop.
Since the formation of Bali Process in 2002, countless workshops with various themes that concentrate on the issues of irregular movement of people including people smuggling and trafficking in persons were successfully held. These workshops had contributed immensely in terms of creating further understanding amongst Bali Process member countries on the urgency to work collectively to effectively address irregular migration that are closely linked with other areas of transnational crime such as trafficking in persons.
Countries in the Asia Pacific region are currently facing the most daunting challenge in dealing with threats posed by transnational crime. This is due to the fact that transnational crime would comprise of three main elements namely, movement of people and money across borders and the involvement of criminal syndicates. Although, transnational crime are diverse in nature but it is closely associated with each other. An easy example is that profits from one crime (trafficking in persons) could be utilized to fund other crimes such as terrorism, arms smuggling and vice versa.
It is a well known fact that trafficking in persons is a form of modern day slavery. According to UN.GIFT (Global Iniative to Fight Human Trafficking), 2.5 million people are in forced labour including sexual exploitation at any given time as a result of trafficking. Additionally, 161 countries are reported to be affected by trafficking in persons by being a source, transit or destination countries. People are reported to be trafficked from 127 countries and to be exploited in 137 countries. This clearly shows that every continent and every type of economy are affected by trafficking in persons. The key motivator for unscrupulous individuals or criminal syndicates to be involved in this crime is due to its huge profit margin. It is the third largest source of profit for international organised crime after drugs and arms with revenue amounting to billions of dollar each year.
The scourge of trafficking in persons reaches into every corner of the globe but perhaps nowhere more so than in East Asia and the Pacific. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the incidence of forced labour and sex trafficking is higher in the Asia Pacific region than anywhere else in the world while based on the findings by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), victims from Asia are trafficked to the widest range of destinations globally.
Due to the given scenario, it is incumbent upon Bali Process member countries to work hand in gloves so as to put a stop to this heinous and exploitative crime. Strong resolve and effective enforcement efforts from all parties are crucial and pivotal in curbing trafficking in persons in our region. The Bali Process group has been founded on the very basis that cooperation between the source, transit and destination countries is of paramount importance to successfully deal with irregular movement of people that could result in innocent individuals in the region to fall victim to international traffickers.
Malaysia’s strategic geographical location has somehow put the country in a unique position whereby it is a transit as well as a destination country for trafficking in persons. Realising the huge negative impact it has on the country if this issue is not being dealt with wisely, the Government has introduced the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act 2007 that came into effect on 28th February 2008. The Act has been instrumental in criminalising the human trafficking offences in the country. The Act has also resulted in the formation of the Council for Anti Trafficking in Persons (MAPO) that is tasked to oversee the formulation of policies and effective execution of programmes in combating this crime. The Act has been amended last year to provide for harsher punishment for trafficking in persons besides criminalising the activities of people smuggling.
The Government is of the view that it could not single handedly deal with this problem without effective participation from the public at large. Hence, the National Action Plan was unveiled on 30 Mac 2010 to educate and inform the society on the seriousness of this crime and the negative repercussions that it has on them. The national collective efforts are of essence to ensure that this crime could be addressed in a systematic and coordinated manner
The National Action Plan spells out the strategic direction for the next five years (2010 – 2015) to realise the national goals in preventing and combating the crime of trafficking in persons. The Plan has come up with five guiding principles that amongst others emphasises on the Government’s ownership to deal with this problem, civil societies’ participation, human rights based treatment for victims and effective coordination within related Government agencies and with international bodies including the NGOs.
In addition to Malaysia’s efforts to combat trafficking in persons through the mechanism made available by the domestic legislation, the Government has recently initiated a national project of registering all foreign workers regardless of their status. The project known as 6P programme aims at identifying and compiling national database of foreign workers in the country and has successfully registered a total of more than 2.3 million of foreign workers in the country.
Besides targeting to update the national database of foreign workers in Malaysia, the 6P programme is also expected to protect the foreign workers from being exploited or manipulated by irresponsible employers or agents that tantamount to trafficking in persons. The significant difference between the current exercise with the previous registration exercise is the application and usage of the biometric registration system. In ensuring smooth implementation of this programme, we have worked closely with source countries namely Indonesia, Bangladesh, Myanmar, India and Vietnam.
On the international front, Malaysia has forged strategic collaborations with like-minded countries such as Australia, United Kingdom, Netherlands and the United States to counter the threats of transnational crime including trafficking in persons. Diverse areas of cooperation are implemented encompassing the holding of regular working group meetings, exchanges of information and intelligence including capacity building programmes.
Trafficking in persons is an increasingly pressuring issue for the international community. Hence, traffickers are criminals that should be brought to justice and be punished accordingly. In doing so, we must not forget those trafficked victims who are robbed of their freedom, dignity and basic rights. These victims are being exploited over and over again as if they are traded commodities for the benefits of irresponsible and immoral individual or syndicates.
Malaysia views the aspect of victims’ protection very seriously. One of the five (5) guiding principles under the National Action Plan is to accord basic human rights treatment to all victims of trafficking regardless of gender, age and religion. The Government of Malaysia recognises that the involvement and roles of non-governmental organisations are critical in our efforts to combat this atrocious crime, specifically in the aspect of victim protection and rehabilitation.
On this note, the Government of Malaysia would like to express our appreciation to IOM for conducting the assessment of our shelter homes for victims of trafficking in persons, including for shelter homes run by the NGOs. The Government of Malaysia will continuously strive to further improves the element of victims protection which is an important step towards confronting a crucial area of needed improvement with regards to victims’ care and protection.
Malaysia is honoured to hold this particular workshop that would give strong emphasis to victims of trafficking, particularly on the aspect of protection, care and recovery. This would be an important venue for all Bali Process member countries to share each other experience and best practices in ensuring victims of trafficking are well protected. I believe that everyone would concur with the fact that the success of prosecution concerning cases trafficking in persons would very much depend entirely on the willingness of the victims to testify against perpetrators. As such, I am of the view that the holding of this workshop is timely and critical
States should be looking on having a victim-centered approach whereby victim identification and support including better protection for care and recovery are given consideration. These victims of trafficking in persons have been subjected to cruel treatment and exploitation at the hands of the perpetrators. Women and children mostly are tricked into the sex trade while men are subjected to modern day slavery. This is a blatant disregard to human rights and it left unchecked, the victims could be traumatised mentally and psychologically and to some extent physically. Thus, States ought to seek ways and means to work out an effective framework in victim protection and not resorting to criminalise them.
Bali Process has progressed tremendously in actively engaging its members in terms of the practical and operational aspects of tackling the problems of irregular movement including trafficking in persons and other related areas of transnational crime. The success of the regional group is attributed wholly to the dedication and commitments by member states in ensuring no stones are left unturned in the quest of formulating regional solutions to this global menace. As we have given focused on the law enforcement aspects to combat trafficking in persons, it is equally important that we need to ensure victims of trafficking have to be comfortable enough to come forward as credible witnesses. I would like to reiterate that victims’ protection and rehabilitation is one of the crucial part in our efforts to combat this crime.
With that, I wish you all the best for the next two days and you all would have a lively discourse as well as acquiring additional knowledge on protection for victims of trafficking. In the mean time, please take some time off to explore the beautiful city of Kuala Lumpur.