Human trafficking: 'More awareness needed'

Half of the respondents of a survey could accurately identify potential victims of human trafficking, while three in four knew the correct international definition of the crime, according to a pilot study conducted last month.

But the study by International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and Microsoft also found that most respondents underestimated the gravity of the issue.

In 2012, the International Labour Organisation estimated that there were 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally in total; but the average person put the number at only 11 million. The findings showed that respondents had "a broad understanding of human trafficking and exploitation in Singapore", said IOM programme leader Tara Dermott, who is based in Bangkok. The findings were released in the local Microsoft office at Marina Bay.

More needs to be done to raise awareness of the growing problem of human trafficking, she said.

The study was based on a poll of 100 people in areas such as Lucky Plaza, Plaza Singapura and the Singapore Management University (SMU) on Nov 19. It was conducted by undergraduates from SMU and National University of Singapore.

Ms Deepika Daswani, 22, who conducted the poll, said the short test was "a good way of explaining human trafficking and exploitation" to respondents. "It gave us a platform to clarify any doubts the respondents had about the topic," added the SMU undergraduate.

Executive director of Humanitarian Organisation for Migrant Economics Jolovan Wham called the results "surprising, given how human trafficking is an issue that isn't discussed much".

Perhaps efforts by non-governmental organisations have had some impact, he said.

"But (trafficking) is a complex issue, and future awareness-raising activities should also incorporate deeper discussions about the different dimensions of human trafficking."

This article was first published on December 1, 2015.
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