U.S. Department of State 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report - Malaysia

Malaysia (Tier 3)

Malaysia is a destination country, and to a lesser extent, a source and transit country for women and children trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation; it is also a destination for men, women, and children who migrate voluntarily to Malaysia seeking employment, but who are later subjected to conditions of forced labor as domestic workers, or in the agricultural, construction, or industrial sectors. Foreign victims of sex trafficking in Malaysia, mainly women and girls, from Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma, and the People's Republic of China (P. R. C. ) are frequently recruited with the promise of a job as a domestic worker, food service or factory worker. Some economic migrants, including children, from countries in the region as well as India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan who work as domestic servants and as laborers in the construction and agricultural sectors face exploitative conditions that rise to the level of involuntary servitude. Some Malaysian women, primarily of Chinese ethnicity, are trafficked abroad for sexual exploitation.

The Government of Malaysia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. Malaysia is placed on Tier 3 for its failure to show satisfactory progress in combating trafficking in persons, particularly in the areas of punishing acts of trafficking, providing adequate shelters and social services to victims, protecting its migrant workers from involuntary servitude, and for not prosecuting traffickers who were arrested and detained under preventive laws. The Malaysian government needs to demonstrate stronger political will to tackle Malaysia's significant forced labor and sex trafficking problems. The government did not establish a government-run shelter for foreign trafficking victims that the Ministry for Women, Family and Community Development announced publicly in December 2004 and again in August 2006. Without procedures for the identification of victims, the government continued to treat some trafficking victims as illegal immigrants, and arrest, incarcerate, and deport them. As a regional economic leader approaching developed nation status, Malaysia has the resources and government infrastructure to do far more in addressing the issue of trafficking in persons. Malaysia's House of Representatives passed the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act on May 10, 2007, which, if enacted, gives Malaysia a significant potential tool with which to effect anti-trafficking reforms. The government needs to show a serious increase in efforts to punish trafficking crimes and to identify and protect trafficking victims over the coming year.

A 2006 Memorandum of Understanding between the Governments of Indonesia and Malaysia regarding the employment of Indonesian women as domestic servants in Malaysia authorizes Malaysian employers to confiscate and hold the passport of the domestic employee throughout the term of employment; this practice has been recognized by many in the international anti-trafficking community as facilitating the involuntary servitude of domestic workers.


The Malaysian government showed no improvement in efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases in 2006. Malaysian law does not prohibit all forms of trafficking. Malaysia criminally prohibits some forms of sex trafficking through its Penal Code, Section 372 and the Constitution prohibits slavery and forced labor. The government does not criminalize debt-bondage nor current labor practices that promote involuntary servitude conditions. Penalties for sex trafficking are commensurate with those for rape. In 2006, the government did not identify any judicial cases against traffickers, but did prosecute 35 persons for procuring minors for the purpose of prostitution. Malaysia, particularly in accordance with the above-mentioned MOU with Indonesia signed in 2006, does not prosecute employers who confiscate passports of migrant workers and who confine them to the workplace. Confiscation of passports, though technically in violation of the Passports Act, is the government's prescribed method of controlling contract laborers. There were no prosecutions of employers who refuse to pay employees and hold their wages in "escrow" until completion of a contract. Immigration and local police authorities overlook or actively ignore trafficking situations involving prostitution. In 2006, there were no government officials implicated, arrested, or tried for involvement in trafficking of persons.


The Malaysian government provided minimal assistance to victims of trafficking and does not provide shelter or protective services to victims. The police responded to requests by foreign embassies to rescue their nationals who were trapped in prostitution. In these cases, police turned over the victims to their respective embassies. Malaysia encourages victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking, though as noted above, there were no identified prosecutions of traffickers last year. The government does not make a systematic effort to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable migrant groups, such as girls and women detained for involvement in prostitution or the thousands of undocumented migrant workers rounded up by government-commissioned volunteer security forces in mid-2006. Despite Malaysia's relative wealth, foreign donors provide greater funding for the protection of girls and women victimized in Malaysia than does the Government of Malaysia. The government provides no legal alternatives to the removal of victims to countries where they face hardship or retribution. Victims detained by immigration authorities, including children, are routinely processed as illegal migrants and held in prisons or illegal migrant detention facilities prior to deportation. Victims identified by the police are usually released into the custody of a home country consular official and sent to a shelter operated by an embassy, if such exists. The Indonesian Government houses approximately 1,100 women and children at its embassy and consular shelters in Malaysia each year, with no assistance from the Malaysian government; the large majority are believed to be victims of trafficking.


The Malaysian government rarely sponsored any anti-trafficking information or education campaigns during 2006. The Ministry of Women, Family, and Community Development sponsored a conference for police, immigration, and community development professions to build awareness of trafficking and victim identification. The Royal Malaysian Police co-sponsored a one-day workshop with an NGO and the Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation to develop a national strategy on combating trafficking. The government has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.


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