Official policy is in the process of change. An inter-agency anti-trafficking task force was set up in November 2010, co-chaired by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Manpower. Singapore says that it is now using the definition of trafficking in the anti-trafficking protocol (see Singapore falls short of international protocol) as the operational basis of its anti-trafficking activity. Writing in Straits Times, Senior Correspondent Radha Basu says:

Singapore is likely to overcome a decade long reluctance to sign a UN treaty that seeks to prevent, suppress and punish human trafficking. It will join 150 others when it does sign the treaty.(‘More must be done to curb human trafficking’, Straits Times, August 3, 2011)

Noting that the US police have a checklist of 12 signs to look out for in identifying people who have been trafficked but might be afraid to speak up, Basu writes:

The law enforcement authorities here have also adapted their own version of the US checklist. Rather than merely ask potential victims whether they came voluntarily, the women are now asked if they are holding their travel documents and, if not, who has them. Other questions: Were they recruited for one purpose and forced to engage in some other job? Do they have freedom of movement?

TWC2 welcomes these steps forward. It is bound to take some time to consolidate the new approach, but we hope that this will happen as quickly as possible, so that those who may have been trafficked are treated primarily as people in need of help rather than as criminals who have broken immigration or other laws.  We also hope that Singapore will soon sign the ‘Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime’.

Various organisations and individuals have worked to counter trafficking in Singapore. Some wish to remain anonymous. UNIFEM-Singapore started campaigning against trafficking for sexual exploitation in 2005, and since 2009, has cooperated with The Body Shop Singapore, HOME and ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and the Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes) International. AWARE raised the issue in its submission to the United Nations’ UN Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women in 2011.

TWC2 affiliated to the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW) in 2008. We have assisted a number of workers, male and female, who we considered to have been trafficked. In 2011, GAATW and TWC2 made a joint report to the UN Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women on the occasion of Singapore presenting its report on its compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). It is titled ‘Discrimination against women migrant workers and human trafficking in Singapore’. The report comments:

Singapore’s anticipated signing of the Human Trafficking Protocol marks a positive step forward in the state’s efforts to address trafficking. However, in order for this milestone to translate into effective prevention, protection and prosecution measures, the Protocol must be implemented with due diligence. Further, robust monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to assess the effectiveness and impact of measures undertaken must be implemented from their naissance. Critically, trafficking must be understood as a cause and consequence of human rights violations and measures developed with this understanding at their centre and victim-centred in design and implementation.