Friday, April 2, 2010

Five-Year Plan Aims to Combat Human Trafficking in Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia on Wednesday launched a national plan against human trafficking as the country moved to quash its image as a major transit point for traffickers.

Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the five-year plan would strengthen anti-trafficking legislation and training and improve border security, among measures to tackle the problem.

“We need to equip our personnel with relevant knowledge and expertise in areas concerning policy, prevention, protection and rehabilitation including prosecution,” he said.

Hishammuddin said 202 human-trafficking cases had been dealt with under legislation introduced in 2007, with 1,252 victims of various nationalities rescued so far.

He said the plan also called for a reduction in the 1.9 million foreign workers in Malaysia, which “could be a contributing factor of people trafficking.”

Hishammuddin also stressed the need for strategic partnerships with destination countries such as Australia.

Immigration activists say Malaysia is often used as a staging post for gangs of traffickers moving people from Burma, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka to Indonesia and Australia.

Migrant-rights group Tenaganita welcomed the plan but stressed a need to look at governance and remove corrupt officials who encouraged the trade.

“One of the key causes of trafficking is collusion and corruption among enforcement officials here, so we must tackle this at the root cause as a key priority if any plan is to succeed,” the group’s director, Irene Fernandez, said.

Malaysian police arrested five immigration officials last July for involvement in an international syndicate that smuggled refugees from Burma’s Rohingya Muslim minority into the country.

Agence France-Presse