Malaysia is a popular destination amongst migrant workers for economic reasons or as a transit country; these vulnerable groups are susceptible to becoming victims of sexual and labor trafficking. Complaints regarding human trafficking have constantly been lodged with SUHAKAM over the years. Although it is not an enforcement agency for transnational crimes, SUHAKAM has been acting as a bridge between complainants and enforcement agencies to ensure that immediate and appropriate action is taken on every complaint.

SUHAKAM holds the view that human trafficking and smuggling of migrants should be dealt with great urgency by the relevant authorities. In supporting the country’s effort to combat human trafficking, SUHAKAM have held various dialogues and roundtable discussions with relevant Government agencies and other stakeholders, as well as made submissions to the Council for Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants (MAPO) in Malaysia. SUHAKAM also conducts periodic visits to shelters for victims of human trafficking and continues to promote greater awareness among all levels of the society of the danger of human trafficking as well as the importance to ensure the human rights of trafficked victims are guaranteed from the moment they are rescued, and during their rehabilitation and re-integration into society.

SUHAKAM notes with serious concern the U.S. Department of State’s 2019 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report that Malaysia has been downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List for failing to fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking under the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act 2000 (TVPA).

Of particular concern to SUHAKAM are the State Department’s findings that the Government of Malaysia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. These efforts included convicting slightly more traffickers, issuing a significant number of passes for victims’ freedom of movement from shelters, and establishing an additional shelter for adult female trafficking victims, although it had not yet served victims. The government reported some investigations into allegations of official complicity and authorized a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the camps and mass graves discovered in Wang Kelian in 2015. The government also continued to overhaul its foreign worker management system. However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous year. The government identified far fewer victims than in previous years and authorities investigated and prosecuted fewer cases. The government’s victim protection efforts remained largely inadequate and some rehabilitation services such as medical care, telephone calls, freedom of movement, and the issuance of work permits were inconsistently implemented, if at all. The government stopped funding NGOs to provide shelter. Corruption related to processes for foreign nationals to work in Malaysia remained pervasive and the government did not report initiating new prosecutions or convicting any complicit officials during the reporting period. Therefore, Malaysia remained on Tier 2 Watch List for the second year.

SUHAKAM calls on the Government to intensify its effort to prevent and combat human trafficking and smuggling of migrants, as well as to ensure full protection and assistance for trafficked and smuggled victims at all stages, in line with international standards set by the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.