SINGAPORE: A set of guidelines for victims of human trafficking while investigations are ongoing is being considered.
Member of Parliament for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC Mr Christopher de Souza, who had proposed a Private Member's Bill on the Prevention of Human Trafficking, said feedback on the proposed Bill had called for victims of human trafficking to be protected during investigations.
Mr de Souza said the guidelines will likely be separate from the legislation.
He elaborated: "Practically speaking, a person is not trafficked until the person is proven to have been trafficked. And that could take a year, a year and a half -- investigations, trial, (and) verdict.
“So if we were to accord the victims a slew of rights, a menu of rights for a good one-and-a-half years, and it is proven eventually at trial that the person wasn't trafficked, then I would say let us be a little more cautious in trying to hardwire the rights into the Bill, and give the discretion to the people who know best -- the counsellors, the enforcement officers."
Some 80 participants attended the fourth and final public consultation session on the proposed Bill on Tuesday evening.
The proposed Bill would be a dedicated law to criminalise Trafficking in Persons for the purpose of sexual exploitation, forced labour and exploitation by the removal of organs.
A comprehensive suite of measures to support victims, tougher penalties and targeting all parties involved in the trafficking chain were some views expressed at public consultations held recently with 200 individuals.
They include civil society groups, academics, industry representatives, religious groups, grassroots community, students, and interested members of the public.
Many gave feedback that Singapore's definition of Trafficking in Persons should be closely aligned to international benchmarks.
Civil society groups such as AWARE, HOME, Project X, Workfair Singapore and civil society activists also shared their concerns over limitations of the proposed Bill.
They called for specific criteria to ensure that victims of sex trafficking are properly identified, rather than let the decision be made to the "subjective judgement of individual officers".
They also felt that the proposed Bill was inadequate in providing protection and support to marginalised migrant workers in certain industries including fishing, construction and domestic work.
In response, Mr de Souza said: "Some of the issues that have been raised on labour trafficking, on consent on deception, I think let us get the Bill onto a good foundation to start with.
“My priority is that it is enforceable. We shouldn't be trying to put in too much at the foundational level, and at the start. Let it have a gestation period of a few months, a few years, to be enforced. If there are gaps, let's have a continuing dialogue to see how we can plug those gaps."
The Singapore Inter-Agency Taskforce on Trafficking in Persons also responded to the suggestions from civil society groups.
It said: "The Singapore Inter-Agency Taskforce on Trafficking in Persons has received the joint open letter issued by civil society groups including AWARE, HOME, Project X, Workfair, and two civil society activists, sharing their views and concerns on the proposed Prevention of Human Trafficking Bill.
“We will take these feedback and views into consideration when discussing and preparing the proposed Bill with Mr Christopher de Souza, and would like to thank the groups for their inputs."
Mr de Souza expects to table the Bill in November. - CNA/gn
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