In the first labour trafficking conviction, the Singapore State Courts finds the couple guilty of trafficking and exploiting 3 Bangladeshi women, subjecting them to oppressive working conditions, threats of repatriation without salary, withholding their salaries, passports and identification documents and abusing their power over the women.

Malkar Savlaram Anant, 51, and his wife Priyanka Bhattacharya Rajesh, 31, were each sentenced on Tuesday (11 February 2020) to five years and six months jail and a S$7,500 fine. They were also sentenced for offences under the Women’s Charter. Malkar was also ordered to pay a compensation of S$4,878.31 in unpaid salary to one of the women.

This marks Singapore’s first labour trafficking conviction under the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act since its enactment in 2015, and is a clear depiction of the Singapore government’s zero-tolerance toward trafficking in persons.

“The conviction of the first labour trafficking case underscores our commitment to combat human trafficking. We will continue to take strong actions to detect, deter and prosecute trafficking-in-persons cases,” said Shirley Lim, a director at Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower, adding two other labour trafficking cases were pending in court.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THEY ARE RESCUED?

Upon rescue by the authorities in 2016, the three Bangladeshi women were referred to HAGAR to receive recovery care, while they remained in Singapore to assist as court witnesses in the trial.

In working with women and young girls trafficked into Singapore, HAGAR walks with survivors on their recovery journey, providing legal aid, access to safe accommodation, trauma recovery care and counselling, literacy learning, vocational and life skills training.

During their stay here in Singapore, HAGAR also helps survivors with job placements and employment opportunities through the Ministry of Manpower approved Temporary Job Scheme where workers are able to earn money so they can support their families back home. During the tail-end of the court case, HAGAR works with them on a resettlement plan to help them reintegrate back to their home country, providing them with continuous educational or economic support till they are able to stand on their own feet again.

“All of them who are classified as trafficked victims – they’ve all been tricked. There is a level of deception between what they were told and what the real situation really is.” Lynette Lim, Director for Development and Communications, HAGAR Singapore.

Typically, victims come from very impoverished backgrounds with at least five to seven dependents. That’s the reason why they have to look overseas for work opportunities so they can provide financially for the families back home. Because of their inherent vulnerabilities, they make the perfect prey for traffickers, who promise them false job offers and a good salary. They pay lots of money to the “agents” in their home countries and by the time they realise the reality of their situation, they no longer have the ability to say no or come out of it.

Throughout their stay in Singapore, HAGAR is committed to helping survivors recover from the trauma and be empowered with literacy and skills, increasing their capacity to gain economic independence in the long run.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Because human trafficking is organised crime, operated by intricate networks of syndicates across multiple layers, it is difficult to identify the mastermind. Prosecution against people who exploit women and girls for sex work remains tough, lawyers explained, because those in the sex trade are “trapped” and may struggle to report crimes against them to relevant authorities, lawyers said.

Victims are also deterred by the language barrier and fear and mistrust in a foreign land. Through HAGAR’s latest awareness initiative ‘Be A Voice for the Silenced’, you can be a lifeline to victims by donning a scarf, encouraging them to seek help from their exploitative situation. In a unique collaboration with 5 local fashion designers and artists, this series of scarves is inspired by true human trafficking stories. Each scarf carries a message of hope in a native language that victims in Singapore will be able to understand. When you put it on, you lend courage to victims that they are not alone and help is available. Find out more and purchase a scarf. Click here to Be A Voice for the Silenced!

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Donate now

By partnering with Hagar, you answer the cries of human suffering. Our work is dependent on charitable giving by people like you. Help us transform lives.

Help us transform lives

Donate now

By partnering with Hagar, you answer the cries of human suffering. Our work is dependent on charitable giving by people like you. Help us transform lives.

Help us transform lives

Donate now

By partnering with Hagar, you answer the cries of human suffering. Our work is dependent on charitable giving by people like you. Help us transform lives.

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