Fea­ture

Esquire (Singapore) - - Style -

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...

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