Doubts over human trafficking claims

KUALA LUMPUR - Foreign prostitutes and migrant workers who claimed to be victims of human trafficking are just trying to avoid prosecution and get a free pass home, said MCA Public Service and Complaints Department chief Datuk Seri Michael Chong.

Chong said many of these so-called victims had approached him over the years because they had overstayed and wanted a free pass to return to their home countries.

"They claimed to have been lured into vice or into working here but when I looked at their passports, some have overstayed for as long as two years.

"If these cases were real, they would have escaped earlier," he said in an interview.

However, Chong said there were also genuine cases of human trafficking.

"I have handled cases in which foreign women forced into prostitution were actually brought to me by their customers who took pity on them," he said.

Many of these women, he added, bore the scars of abuse and their cases were handled by the authorities.

Under the Trafficking in Persons (TiP) 2014 report, Malaysia has dropped to Tier 3 - the lowest ranking, leaving it in the same category as Thailand, Venezuela, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe.

According to the report, Malaysia has decreased its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts and reported fewer investigations and convictions in 2013 as compared with 2012.

Only nine traffickers were convicted although 650 potential victims were identified last year.

Malaysia's drop, said Chong, was undeserved because the authorities were trying their best.