| James Kon |
IN 2013, the Human Trafficking Unit of Brunei Darussalam carried out preliminary investigations into 183 reports on cases of unpaid wages, physical abuse, prostitution, immigration offences and runaway workers. From January to September this year, 66 preliminary investigations were conducted.
These figures were revealed yesterday during a presentation on ‘Trafficking of Persons – Brunei Darussalam’ at the Philippines Chancery.
The absence of prosecution in these cases is due to several reasons, mainly, difficulty in identifying the culprits, victims’ refusal to testify, no complaints being lodged by trafficked victims, and because it is easier to charge under other laws – such as Labour Act or Women and Girls’ Protection Act.
In view of this, Christopher Ng, Counsel and Deputy Public Prosecutor of the Special Duties Unit of Criminal Justice Division, yesterday called for these victims to come forward to lodge a report and to seek assistance from their respective embassies.
Highlighting the situation of human trafficking in Brunei, he said, “Based on a report from the US State Department on human trafficking, Brunei is a destination country for trafficked victims. However, we feel that a lot of the victims trafficked are on transit and that Brunei is not the destination for trafficking.
“Brunei is currently ranked as a ‘Tier 2 country’ in the report. There is one convicted case of trafficking in persons (TIP) which falls under sexual exploitation. Victims in Brunei are generally subjected to involuntary servitude and denial of wages, which may lead to TIP in the form of labour exploitation.”
Explaining the difference between trafficking and smuggling, he said, “Trafficking must contain elements of force, fraud or coercion – whereby persons trafficked are enslaved, subject to limited movement and have had their documents confiscated.
In the case of smuggling, “The persons smuggled are generally cooperating with the culprit. There is no actual or implied coercion and the smuggled persons are complicit in the smuggling crime. They are not necessarily victims. It is about facilitating the illegal entry of persons from one country to another.”
Christopher Ng then described the offences under Trafficking and Smuggling of Persons Order 2004 by saying, “Under the order, it is an offence of people trafficking (Section 4). It is also an offence of children trafficking (Section 5) and offence of people smuggling (Section 7), whereby any person who engages in people smuggling shall be guilty of an offence, regardless as to whether the smuggled person arrives in the receiving country.
“It is also an offence to facilitate stay of smuggled persons under Section 8 (1). Any person who facilitates the continued presence of a smuggled person in a receiving country in order to obtain financial or other material benefits shall be guilty of an offence.”
The hefty punishments were outlined: A fine not exceeding $1 million with imprisonment for a term of no less than four years, and no more than 30 years. For child trafficking, whipping of no less than five strokes will be imposed.
Insp Saiful Ramle from the Human Trafficking Investigation Unit of the Criminal Investigation Department under the Royal Brunei Police Force in his presentation called on embassies to be aware of the key indicators of trafficked victims.
He also expressed hopes the embassies can ensure their citizens hold proper documentations, meet necessary immigration and labour requirements upon arriving into the country, and will be able to assist victims with lodging a police report, particularly in instances of unpaid wages and abuse.
The embassies can assist in raising awareness of TIP offences and if there are cases or enquiries, they can contact the Human Trafficking Investigation Unit at 2232002 (ext 303) or the police hotline at 993.
Also present at the presentation were officers from the Labour Department, National Registration and Immigration as well as Community Development Department.