and exploitative conditions—tends to be far more common. According to the 2017 Trafficking In Persons (TIP) Report by the United States State Department: “Some of the 1.4 million foreign workers that comprise approximately one-third of Singapore’s total labour force are vulnerable to trafficking.”
Another common myth is that physical restraint and force is required in human trafficking. Such misconceptions can have a serious impact, leading to damaging assumptions where individuals perceived as having consented to the job and consequent conditions are seen as people who “should have known better”, and therefore blamed for their own predicament.
There are ways to identify victims of trafficking: the Delphi method introduced by the International Labour Office and the European Commission provides sets of operational indicators intended to help with determining whether someone has been trafficked or not. An individual who fulfills the dimensions of deceptive recruitment, exploitation and coercion is deemed to have been trafficked.
Following this methodology, Safiar appears to fit the bill: he’d been deceived about the nature of the job and deceived about his wages, which fulfils the dimension of deceptive recruitment. The lack of a signed contract and the failure to pay his salary meets the requirements for exploitation, while the dimension of coercion is fulfilled by the fact that his employer had confiscated his passport and withheld his wages, while the money that he’d had to borrow to pay his recruitment fee kept him in debt bondage.
His case worker at the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME), a local migrant rights organisation, told Esquire Singapore that he was thinking of referring Safiar’s case to the Singapore Taskforce on Trafficking in Persons, an inter-agency effort that involves not just MOM but also the police force, the immigration authority, the AttorneyGeneral’s Chambers and a number of other government ministries. In the meantime, Safiar has been granted permission by MOM to find a new employer. It’s crucial that this job hunt goes well. “I cannot go back,” he says. “I owe so much money and I’ve leased my family’s land. If I go back, what will happen to my family and I?”
But such a referral might not be successful. While non-government organisations might rely on indicators as laid out in the Delphi methodology, it’s not clear that the official task force uses the same standards. Cases that HOME has referred to the task force have sometimes been deemed by the authorities as failing
MOM is launching a mandatory Settling-in Programme (SIP) for new work permit holders in the second half of this year. The oneday course, which will be conducted in the workers’ native languages, is designed to equip them with knowledge of their rights...