Last Updated: Friday, 15 December 2017, 16:28 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Brunei

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Brunei, 19 June 2012, available at: [accessed 16 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

BRUNEI (Tier 2)

Brunei is a destination country and, to a much lesser extent, a source and transit country for men and women who are subjected to forced labor and forced prostitution. Men and women from countries within the region, such as Indonesia, Bangladesh, China, the Philippines, and Malaysia, migrate to Brunei primarily for domestic work and are sometimes subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude after arrival. There are approximately 100,000 migrant workers in Brunei, some of whom face debt bondage, nonpayment of wages, passport confiscation, abusive employers, and confinement to the home – conditions widely recognized as indicators of human trafficking. Although it is illegal for employers in Brunei to withhold wages of domestic workers for more than 10 days, some employers are known to withhold wages in order to recoup labor broker or recruitment fees or as a tool with which to maintain the service of the workers. While officials attempt to ensure that workers understand the contracts by reviewing the details and witnessing the signatures, foreign nationals continue to have difficulties understanding the contract stipulations as many do not speak the local language or lack basic literacy skills. Many victims enter the country on social visit passes or tourist visas.

The Government of Brunei does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting period, the government increased its anti-trafficking efforts, particularly in the areas of law enforcement and public awareness. It investigated eight human trafficking cases using its 2004 anti-trafficking law, in comparison with zero cases investigated during the previous year. From among these investigations, the Government of Brunei prosecuted its first two trafficking cases. In addition, authorities established an anti-trafficking unit within the Royal Brunei Police Force in August 2011. During the year, the government identified and assisted one trafficking victim, in contrast to the previous year when no victims were identified. However, the Bruneian government has failed to fully implement formal procedures to proactively identify victims of trafficking. The government allocated resources toward a new unit within the police force dedicated to trafficking investigations and enforcement, increased training and assistance from outside experts, and conducted anti-trafficking prevention campaigns. New efforts related to the monitoring of fraudulent labor recruitment and the exploitation of forced labor were implemented but remained insufficient; the issues of confiscation of travel documents and nonpayment of wages were not adequately addressed.

Recommendations for Brunei: Differentiate between human trafficking and smuggling in legal protocol and trainings, and disaggregate data collection on law enforcement efforts to combat these separate crimes; continue to increase the number of investigations and prosecutions of both sex and labor trafficking offenses using the anti-trafficking law and convict and punish trafficking offenders; adopt and implement proactive procedures to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups, such as migrant workers and females in prostitution; enforce stringent criminal penalties against those involved in fraudulent labor recruitment or exploitation of forced labor; prosecute employers and employment agencies who unlawfully confiscate workers' passports as a means of extracting forced labor; continue cooperative exchanges of information about trafficking cases with foreign governments in order to arrest and prosecute traffickers who enter Brunei; continue to ensure that victims of trafficking are not threatened or otherwise punished for crimes committed as a direct result of being trafficked; develop a national plan of action for anti-trafficking matters; become a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; and continue to support comprehensive and visible anti-trafficking awareness campaigns directed at employers of foreign workers and clients of the sex trade.


The government demonstrated increased progress in its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the past year. The Government of Brunei prohibits both sex and labor trafficking through its Trafficking and Smuggling Persons Order of 2004, which prescribes punishments of up to 30 years' imprisonment. These punishments are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. In February 2012, the government initiated the prosecution of its first trafficking case, which involved a Malaysian couple who allegedly recruited and received an Indonesian adult domestic maid for the purposes of forced labor, extracted by means of physical abuse and deception. The government initiated prosecution of a second trafficking case in March 2012, which involved a Thai national who allegedly subjected three Thai women to forced prostitution. The Bruneian government officially formed a dedicated anti-trafficking law enforcement unit – the Heads of Specialist Trafficking Unit within the Royal Brunei Police Force – in August 2011. During the year, the government continued to rely on mediation or administrative action rather than criminal penalties in labor-related offenses. One military officer received a punishment of a fine and license cancellation for failure to pay wages to his employees. Authorities also investigated and concluded two other cases regarding the same offense, but they did not provide information regarding prosecutions or prescribed punishments or report investigating these labor cases to collect trafficking evidence. The Government of Brunei collaborated with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' law enforcement organization, ASEANAPOL, participated in the Bali Process on trafficking in persons, and sent 10 police officials to an anti-trafficking training hosted by French police officials.


The Government of Brunei's efforts to identify and protect trafficking victims during the reporting period were modest. In early 2012, the government enacted several amendments to the penal code in order to further curb commercial sexual exploitation among children. In collaboration with the Royal Brunei Police Force, these additions and changes to the laws provide prosecutors with the capacities to prosecute and convict a wider array of sexual offenses. For example, stricter penalties are imposed for utilizing technology or traveling abroad to exhibit crude sexual behavior involving children under the age of 18. The government has not widely implemented proactive procedures to systematically identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups, such as foreign workers and individuals in prostitution, but it has increased training and interagency coordination, and sought technical assistance from outside experts in order to do so. Authorities made minimal efforts to proactively identify suspected trafficking victims, identifying one victim, to whom medical assistance was provided. While immigration authorities actively identified and charged violators of immigration laws, there were no cases reported of authorities screening for, identifying, or assisting trafficking victims among immigration violators during the reporting period. During the year, police reported that women found in prostitution were allowed to stay at a government-run shelter and were not fined or convicted of any charges, representing significant improvement over prior years. Three foreign nationals were initially arrested for prostitution offenses but were subsequently treated as trafficking victims; Bruneian authorities provided the victims with shelter and repatriation at their request before they were deported. However, there continued to be no safeguards in place to reduce the risk of hardship, retribution, or re-trafficking of those deported. Police officials reported that while judicial proceedings are ongoing, victims are no longer detained in prison in close proximity to their traffickers and are encouraged to assist in investigations. The government maintained three general-purpose shelters that could be used to assist trafficking victims, but it continued to coordinate with and rely on shelters run by foreign embassies to house their own nationals; victims were not specifically notified of other options. The Ministry of Home Affairs provided funding for a shelter to accommodate trafficking victims and individuals found in prostitution; however, men were not protected under this provision. Bruneian officials have begun to issue special immigration passes to suspected trafficking victims, which permit them to remain in Brunei during investigations.


The Bruneian government expanded prevention efforts during the reporting period. In an effort to prevent labor trafficking, the Labor Department began enforcing licensing requirements for all labor recruitment agencies in early 2012, requiring a monetary deposit and company-wide as well as individual background checks. Recruiters were also required to register with the government, and the government installed posters to raise awareness of and encourage compliance with labor and immigration laws. The government continued to publicize, through the local media, a confidential hotline for reporting trafficking and labor issues; however, the number of calls received through this hotline has never been reported. During the reporting year, the Department of Labor and the Immigration Department conducted nationwide road shows to publicize workers' rights and various indicators of forced labor, such as nonpayment of wages. In addition, the anti-trafficking police unit led a poster campaign to inform the general public about possible human trafficking indicators; however, no specific populations were targeted, and the campaigns were not solely related to trafficking in persons. The public awareness campaign also included frequent television public service announcements. The government-influenced press disseminated stories regarding the prosecution of the first two Bruneian trafficking cases. Authorities issued a poster and bumper sticker discouraging child sex tourism, along with a phone number to call to report such offenses. The government has not drafted a national action plan against trafficking in persons, and sufficient resources have not been designated or allotted to this regard. Brunei is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

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