Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - Special Cases - Brunei

Brunei remains listed as a "special case" for a third consecutive year because the lack of reliable data makes it unclear whether there is a significant number of victims in the country. The presence of large numbers of legal migrant laborers in the country presents the possibility that some may face conditions of involuntary servitude. Coupled with reported predominant use of labor mediation rather than criminal prosecution in cases of severe labor exploitation, this raises concerns that there may be a trafficking problem in Brunei.

Scope and Magnitude. Brunei is a destination country for men and women who migrate legally from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, the People's Republic of China (P.R.C.), and Thailand for domestic or low-skilled labor. A small but unknown number may be subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude after arrival. There were isolated instances of women forced into prostitution in Brunei. In part due to its small size, Brunei has a small trafficking challenge.

Government Efforts. The Government of Brunei vigorously enforces immigration and labor codes. The government demonstrated some efforts to combat trafficking in persons; however, it often relied on administrative rather than criminal penalties. The Government of Brunei prohibits sex and labor trafficking in its Trafficking and Smuggling in Persons Order of 2004; however, there have never been any prosecutions under this order. Labor cases, involving allegations such as contract switching and non-payment of salaries, are usually tried under the Labor Act. The 2004 Trafficking and Smuggling Order prescribes sentences of up to 30 years' imprisonment for acts of sex trafficking, which is sufficiently stringent. The Labor Act prescribes penalties for labor trafficking of up to three years' imprisonment, which is not sufficiently stringent. In December 2007, Brunei joined the ILO and initiated a review of its labor laws to bring them fully in compliance with ILO standards as part of its plan to ratify ILO Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor.

In 2007, Brunei police investigated and made arrests in 10 cases involving foreign women in prostitution. The women were from Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and P.R.C. and had entered the country as tourists. Police investigations indicated that the women had been identified as possible "prostitutes" by their home country law enforcement agencies. In one case, two women asserted that they were trafficked by their handlers. The women were provided shelter by their embassy, but declined to cooperate with the police investigation and were repatriated. In October 2007, two Thai nationals were arrested for living in part on the earnings of prostitution (pimping) from three Thai nationals who were possible trafficking victims and were sheltered at a government facility as the police investigated the case. Due to insufficient evidence of trafficking, and lack of cooperation of the victims, the suspected pimps were prosecuted under other criminal statutes.

The Department of Labor (DOL) regularly investigates labor-related cases involving job switching, salary deductions for recruitment fees, salary based on false promises, and high recruitment fees paid by the prospective employee. Some of these may involve trafficking. The government can prosecute employers for contract switching even if the contractual terms were changed with the consent or knowledge of the migrant worker. In 2007, DOL recorded 26 complaints by domestics and 108 complaints by garment workers against employers who failed to pay salaries. Sixteen of the complaints by domestic workers and 60 of the complaints by garment workers were resolved, largely by employer compensation payments. Eighteen complainants withdrew their claims, while the remaining cases were still under investigation. It is unknown how many of these cases involved trafficking.

Brunei continued efforts to protect trafficking victims. It provided shelter to three potential Thai trafficking victims at a government shelter facility. The victims subsequently requested repatriation which was funded by the Immigration Department. The trafficking law created a government-financed fund which can be used to cover the cost of repatriation. While there are no foreign NGOs or international organizations in Brunei to provide victim support, the embassies of several source countries provide shelter, mediation, and immigration support services to their nationals. Brunei has no formalized, national system for identifying victims of trafficking, although individual law enforcement and social services agencies do have officers trained at victim identification. The government encourages victims to assist in investigations as witnesses and will permit them to obtain other employment pending trial proceedings. One foreign embassy reported that the Brunei government has provided shelter and repatriation assistance to its nationals who have fled to Brunei from neighboring areas of Malaysia to escape abusive labor conditions or commercial sexual exploitation.

The Government of Brunei has not conducted public awareness campaign programs on trafficking, although it did conduct training for law enforcement officials on victim recognition. Police, prosecutors, immigration officers, and officials from the Department of Community Development participate in training to improve their skills in identifying victims, conducting interviews, and providing counseling. Law enforcement officials participate in several regional training programs on trafficking. Brunei has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.


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