BRUNEI has retained its Tier 2 status in the 2016 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report published on Thursday.
The report, issued by the United States Department of State in Washington assessed 188 countries including Brunei in terms of the prevention, prosecution and protection aspects.
The Brunei Government has made significant efforts to meet the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act for the elimination of trafficking in persons, the Embassy of the United States of America in Brunei Darussalam said in a media statement yesterday.
The report has provided a number of recommendations for the Brunei government to increase its efforts to combat human trafficking.
“Protecting the most vulnerable among us from human trafficking is difficult work that all governments, and all people, are responsible for. I commend the Brunei Government for its efforts to not only protect the welfare of victims, but also make sure human traffickers are brought to justice under Brunei law,” said US Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam Craig Allen.
The TIP Report is a call to action for governments to increase the efforts that go into preventing human trafficking, while continuing to maintain programmes and activities that contribute to the adequate protection of victims and effective prosecution of traffickers.
In its elaboration, the report said the Government of Brunei Darussalam does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting period, authorities charged three foreign nationals for child sex trafficking and one individual for forced labour under the anti-trafficking law, compared to the previous two years in which it did not initiate any prosecutions.
The report has provided a number of recommendations for the Brunei government to increase its efforts to combat trafficking in persons such as to increase protective services to provide incentives for victims to participate in investigations and prosecutions, including by allowing adult victims in government shelters to move freely and by issuing work permits to all victims; cease arrest, deportation, and punishment of trafficking victims for crimes committed as a direct result of their being subjected to trafficking.
It also suggested Brunei to train officials on implementation of proactive procedures to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups, with a focus on psychological coercion as a technique used by traffickers; increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offences and convict and punish both sex and labour traffickers, including complicit government officials.
Brunei should also train judges on how to accurately and effectively implement Brunei’s anti-trafficking laws; allocate government resources to the fund established by the 2004 law, and allow this to be paid directly to victims as restitution; enforce laws prohibiting acts that facilitate trafficking, such as retention or confiscation of migrant workers’ identity documents; offer foreign victims long-term alternatives to removal from the country; expand comprehensive and visible anti-trafficking awareness campaigns directed at employers of foreign workers and clients of the sex trade; provide anti-trafficking training to diplomatic personnel; approve and implement the national action plan; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol, the TIP Report said.
The report also said the government demonstrated increased law enforcement efforts. It screened for suspected trafficking offences among 66 cases involving labour complaints or prostitution, a slight decrease from 81 cases the previous year. After three years without initiating any trafficking prosecutions, the government charged three foreign nationals for child sex trafficking under the 2004 anti-trafficking law; it also charged one individual – a case pending trial since 2012 – under the anti-trafficking law for allegedly recruiting and subjecting a domestic worker to forced labour. One alleged sex trafficking case from 2014 and the four cases charged during the reporting period remain pending.
According to the report, Brunei made uneven efforts to prevent trafficking. The government reported transforming its ad hoc anti-trafficking working group to a permanent inter-agency committee to coordinate implementation of its national action plan to combat trafficking; however, it did not formally approve this plan for the second consecutive year. Brunei’s first anti-trafficking NGO was formed during the year and held a series of awareness-raising workshops, film screenings, and art exhibitions, despite lacking official recognition from the government.
Police authorities and labour and immigration officials conducted 10 nationwide roadshows to raise awareness of human trafficking, which specifically targeted employers, human resource managers, students, migrant workers, and the general public, and reached over 1,200 companies and employees across the country, the report noted.