In Pursuit of Justice


What happens after a trafficked victim is rescued?
Why can’t they head home immediately after the rescue? Hagar Singapore explains this and more.

Legal workshop for the ladies helping them understand the legal process, their roles, rights and responsibilities The trauma of being trafficked across borders into slavery and inhumane working conditions is undoubtedly immense. Adding to this mental and emotional pressure is the fact that many rescued survivors continue to remain in Singapore to assist the authorities with court proceedings as witnesses, until the perpetrators are convicted. This can be a matter of months, or in some cases, even years.
 
It’s crucial that the perpetrators are appropriately sentenced first to protect others from falling prey to the same offender and second as a strong deterrence to would-be offenders thinking of committing such crimes in the country. Passed in Parliament in 2014 and subsequently, effected in March 2015, the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act in Singapore serves to deter traffickers and supports the rehabilitation of trafficked victims.

Legal protection is one branch in the array of services that HAGAR provides through the holistic model of care. For many survivors, the idea of going to court and pressing charges against their exploiters is daunting. In this respect, partnering the Pro Bono Services Office of the Law Society of Singapore, HAGAR works with volunteer lawyers to help trafficked survivors better understand court proceedings in Singapore, as well as their legal responsibilities and rights. In April this year, we had the privilege of having Shaneet Rai from Trident Law and Tan Cheow Hung from Beacon Law Corporation who spent their time with our beneficiaries to help answer their questions and allay their anxieties.

Emotional support to the victims is also essential because it is traumatising to even re-tell the ordeal. Most people would prefer to forget it, chucking it out of their memory into oblivion. But in court, they have to re-live the terrifying minute-by-minute second-by-second detail in the very presence of their assaulter.

While the legal tussle goes on, life continues to tick by. And HAGAR also assists with sourcing and matching them with potential employers who can provide temporary jobs for them to be able to sustain themselves here and contribute to their families back home.

When the victims return home after the criminal trial in Singapore finishes, HAGAR continues to work with partner agencies like Justice Without Borders to secure civil compensation and pursue legal remedies against their abusers. Taking a stand to pursue justice in the face of evil and wrongdoing requires deep courage and commitment. For these vulnerable individuals, it is many times harder for them to stand up and voice their rights. But the reward for their act of courage is often, healing. As they step out of their fears, it is the start of a deep healing and restoration of the victim’s dignity.

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