Singapore – a popular transit and destination hub for human trafficking

In the 2018 US Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report, Singapore is once again listed in the Tier 2 rank – indicating that the government of Singapore does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; but that it is making significant efforts to do so.

Efforts include: –

  1. the provision of better care for victims who have been identified and classified as survivors of human trafficking
  2. employment assistance for survivors on short-term work permits via the Temporary Job Scheme
  3. freedom of movement to leave Singapore and go back to their families pending trial procedures
  4. facilitation of pro bono legal assistance to pursue civil court claims for restitution
  5. improving public awareness of human trafficking
  6. educating workers on their rights

The report highlights that more needs to be done to better identify victims of labour trafficking and to secure convictions of labour trafficking.

Singapore remains a popular destination country for men, women and girls from other Asian countries subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour, and also a transit country for Asian men subjected to forced labour on fishing vessels that transit through Singapore.

Migrant workers have been identified as a group at high risk of human trafficking as they experience conditions indicative of labour trafficking. Most victims migrate willingly for work in construction, domestic service, performing arts, manufacturing, or the hospitality industry.

The Foreign Employment Manpower Act has provisions in place to protect migrant workers and there have been cases where errant employers have been convicted. But victims aren’t always rescued on time, where 4 workers died in a shophouse fire.

There are about 1.4 million migrant workers in Singapore and more needs to be done to ensure they are protected against unscrupulous businesses who are intent on exploiting these individuals for profit and self-gain. Traffickers compel victims into sex or labour exploitation through illegal withholding of their pay, threats of forced repatriation without pay, restrictions on movement, and physical and sexual abuse.

Human trafficking is often hidden in plain sight, where traffickers exploit a unique trait in the community – corruption of law enforcement officials, lack of employment opportunities, bias and discrimination.

Sadly, Singapore is also a proponent of child sexual exploitation, where there is a high demand in Batam. The trade is fuelled by many customers from Singapore who travel there to engage in child sex. Much of the trade has moved online making rescue efforts intensively harder.

Domestic workers are also susceptible to traffickers’ deceptive tactics. In Myanmar, agents recruit young girls from remote villages, offering them a job with the lure that they will be able to earn enough to return home after a year. These innocent villagers pack their bags and take instructions from their agents who prepare their travel papers and identification documents and fly them to Singapore where they are transferred to domestic worker recruitment agencies who then tell them about the administrative fees they have incurred and have to work to pay off. Many have documents that are falsified and irresponsible recruiters don’t bother to verify their ages and send the girls to potential employers.

Through our Trauma Recovery and Resettlement Programme, HAGAR has been working with the Singapore government since 2015 to care for the well-being of trafficking survivors. Recognising the similar trauma faced by some migrant workers who have been exploited or abused, HAGAR has also extended our care and is reaching out to foreign domestic workers in Singapore who have experienced trauma from abuse.

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Click here to read the US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report 2018

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By partnering with Hagar, you’re supporting survivors to heal from the trauma of severe abuse. Our work is dependent on charitable giving by people like you.

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By partnering with Hagar, you’re supporting survivors to heal from the trauma of severe abuse. Our work is dependent on charitable giving by people like you.

Help Us Transform Lives

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By partnering with Hagar, you’re supporting survivors to heal from the trauma of severe abuse. Our work is dependent on charitable giving by people like you.

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