Cablegate: Singapore's Submission for the Fifth Annual Tip
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 10 SINGAPORE 000740
STATE PASS AID
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KCRM PHUM KWMN ELAB SMIG ASEC KFRD PREF SN
SUBJECT: SINGAPORE'S SUBMISSION FOR THE FIFTH ANNUAL TIP
REPORT PART I
REF: A. SINGAPORE 657
B. 04 STATE 273089
1. (U) This is first of four messages relaying Embassy
Singapore's 2005 TIP submission. The Embassy point of
contact for this report is Colin Willett: phone (65)
6476-9492, fax (65) 6476-9389, email email@example.com. Due
to the length of our submission, we have split it into four
cables. Per the request in para 17 of Ref B, to date the
Embassy has spent the following time on the TIP report:
COM: 3 hours; FE-MC: 5 hours; FS-1: 50 hours; FS-5: 150 hours.
The Extent of Singapore's Trafficking Problem
2. (SBU) Based on a variety of sources, Embassy believes the
number of credible trafficking cases in Singapore has risen
slightly in 2004, due in part to the resurgence of air travel
following the region's recovery from SARs and the country's
strong economic growth. Despite this increase, the number of
cases remains generally small, and Embassy does not believe
that the nature and scope of the trafficking problem in
Singapore has changed substantially since last year's report.
In the last year, however, the government appears to have
become more sensitive and open to the issue, and has taken
steps to improve its response to it.
3. (SBU) On labor issues, particularly those relating to
Foreign Domestic Workers (FDWs), the Foreign Manpower
Management Division created by the Ministry of Manpower made
a number of important changes to the way the GOS handles FDWs
in 2004. An accreditation scheme for maid agencies,
mandatory training classes for employers and employees,
establishment and public promotion of a hotline for maids,
more stringent regulations, and public outreach campaigns on
the rights and responsibilities of both maids and employers
are having a positive impact on the welfare of FDWs here,
according to a wide range of NGOs and other contacts.
4. (SBU) On sex trafficking issues, the GOS could and should
be doing more to control the vice trade and ensure that women
and children are not victimized. Although it has made less
progress in this area, Embassy believes that the GOS
recognizes that it has a problem. Embassy NGO contacts
report that while the government requires firm evidence
(which NGOs acknowledge is difficult to obtain) in order to
prosecute cases, they are satisfied that the authorities
actively pursue investigations of allegations of trafficking
or coercion, and prosecutions whenever possible. The GOS is
currently reviewing many of its laws, including some, such as
the Penal Code, which deal with trafficking and vice-related
offenses. A small group of interested NGOs is currently
lobbying the government to change its definition of
trafficking to reflect the U.N. Protocol to Prevent,
Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons. NGO contacts
confirm that the GOS is particularly concerned about sex
tourism by Singaporeans abroad, and that it is currently
taking some steps to combat the trade, although its efforts
so far have been more focused on "social" remedies rather
than legal solutions. In addition, the GOS has sanctioned
and will participate in a regional conference on sex tourism
in April and it has undertaken (via a local NGO) a public
outreach campaign on the consequences of sex tourism.
Another NGO has consulted with nearly all Members of
Parliament as it drafts a Sex Tourism Law that it hopes to
introduce in Parliament.
5. (SBU) A. Is the country a country of origin, transit or
destination for international trafficked men, women, or
children? Specify numbers for each group. Does the
trafficking occur within the country's borders? Does it
occur in territory outside of the government's control (e.g.
in a civil war situation)? Are any estimates or reliable
numbers available as to the extent or magnitude of the
problem? Please include any numbers of victims. What is
(are) the source(s) of available information on trafficking
in persons? How reliable are the numbers and these sources?
Are certain groups of persons more at risk of being
trafficked (e.g. women and children, boys versus girls,
certain ethnic groups, refugees, etc.)?
Singapore is not a country of origin for trafficked persons,
either for sex or labor. There is no internal trafficking in
persons. Post is not aware of any cases of trafficking
victims transiting through Singapore, though the transit
lounge at Changi airport does not consistently screen the
millions of transit passengers they service each year. U.S.
Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials at post
do not believe Singapore is a major hub for people smuggling,
a circumstance that further reduces the likelihood of
undetected trafficking victims in transit.
There are no numerical estimates of the magnitude of
trafficking in Singapore. The number of cases that Embassy
has identified through discussions with the government, NGOs
and foreign Embassy consular contacts is under 100; however,
given the size of Singapore's vice trade it is possible that
the total number of victims exceeds 100. From January to
November 2004, around 4,600 suspected foreign sex workers
were detained by authorities, approximately 1 percent of who
were under the age of 18; all of these were 16 or 17 years of
age (updated 2004 numbers will be reported when they become
available). While there are no reliable statistics on how
many of those over 18 may have been coerced into
prostitution, most NGOs, government contacts, and source
country consular officials agree that the number is quite
small. Reports of forced prostitution and threats of
physical violence or retribution are rare, and many NGOs say
they have encountered few cases where a pimp or other abettor
held a woman's passport. In June 2004, a Singaporean woman
and two Indonesians were arrested for illegally bringing a
baby to Singapore for adoption; the women told police they
had trafficked a total of four babies to Singapore. Embassy
knows of one case of maid abuse in 2004 that probably rises
to the level of trafficking.
Based on our discussions with a wide variety of sources --
government and police officials, local NGOs (focusing on
foreign workers, sex workers, and public health), civil
advocacy groups, consular/labor officials from several labor
source countries, journalists, researchers, and staff from
shelters -- the Embassy is convinced that it is unlikely that
there is a substantial number of undiscovered trafficking
cases. Singapore is a densely populated and tightly policed
island nation the size of Washington D.C. within the Beltway;
we believe evidence of a more substantial trafficking problem
would quickly surface, in part because of the government's
focus on stamping out all corruption and organized crime.
B. Where are the persons trafficked from? Where are the
persons trafficked to?
The nationalities of the known 2004 trafficking victims are
currently not available (2004 statistics will be reported
when they become available), but nearly all are sex workers.
Sex workers in Singapore come primarily from the People's
Republic of China (approximately 45 percent in 2004),
Thailand (approximately 20 percent), Indonesia (approximately
20 percent), with smaller numbers coming from the
Philippines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Eastern Europe and
Russia. The one domestic worker who Embassy considers a
trafficking victim is Indonesian, as were the four babies
allegedly trafficked to Singapore.
C. Have there been any changes in the direction or extent of
In 2004, the number of "trafficking" cases identified by the
Embassy rose, largely due to the substantial increase in the
total number of women coming to Singapore to work as
prostitutes ) the number of foreign women detained for
suspected prostitution roughly doubled from 2003 to 2004.
The number of underage girls involved, though small, rose
proportionally. Embassy believes the increase is largely
attributable to the strong rebound in tourism after the
resolution of the SARS crisis of 2003, Singapore's strong
economic growth in 2004, and the easier access to "social
passes" for Chinese nationals.
D. Are any efforts or surveys planned or underway to
document the extent and nature of trafficking in the country?
Is any additional information available from such reports or
surveys that was not available last year?
There are no surveys of trafficking per se; given Singapore's
limited visible problem of trafficking, this is not
surprising. The Department of Health, working through NGOs
and independent researchers, has conducted surveys of
free-lance prostitutes (as opposed to those based in
brothels, which are tightly monitored by the government) and
men who frequent sex workers in the Indonesian Riau islands.
Our own sources of information have continued to increase in
number and quality, lending additional confidence to our
assessment that Singapore's trafficking problem is small.
E. If the country is a destination point for trafficked
victims: What kind of conditions are the victims trafficked
into? Are they forced to work in sweatshops, agriculture,
restaurants, construction sites, prostitution, nude dancing,
domestic servitude, begging, or other forms of labor,
exploitation, or services? What methods are used to ensure
their compliance? Are the victims subject to violence,
threats, withholding of their documents, debt bondage, etc.?
Nearly all of the known or suspected cases in 2004 involved
sex trafficking. None appear to have been confined by the
traffickers, or subjected to physical violence. There is
one known case, currently under investigation, of an
Indonesian maid who was confined by her employers and not
paid for two years. Police, working with a local NGO, rescued
her from her situation in March 2005 and are currently
investigating in cooperation with the Ministry of Manpower.
Consular officials from Embassies of worker source countries
report that each year sees a number of cases of women who
come to Singapore voluntarily to work in the sex trade or
elsewhere who then face some sort of coercion, usually
psychological, not physical, by agents or pimps. A typical
story is of a woman who was told she could find a job here,
but arrived to find that legitimate work was not available.
Now alone in Singapore, many women do not want to or cannot
go home empty handed, and enter the sex trade either of their
own volition or at the urging of a recruiter. Source country
consular officers and NGOs report that few women are
physically threatened or abused.
F. If the country is a country of origin: Which populations
are targeted by the traffickers? Who are the traffickers?
What methods are used to approach victims? (Are they offered
lucrative jobs, sold by their families, approached by friends
of friends, etc.?) What methods are used to move the victims
(e.g., are false documents being used?)
Not applicable. Singapore is not a country of origin for
G. Is there political will at the highest levels of
government to combat trafficking in persons? Is the
government making a good faith effort to seriously address
trafficking? Is there a willingness to take action against
government officials linked to TIP? In broad terms, what
resources is the host government devoting to combating
trafficking in persons (in terms of prevention, protection,
There is very strong political will in Singapore to combat
trafficking in persons. Singapore leaders place great stress
on achieving a very low crime rate and maintaining extremely
tight immigration controls. They are concerned about
allegations of trafficking, either for sex or for labor.
Singapore places great emphasis on tight control of
immigration, effected through very tough laws, and has
strengthened controls further since the terrorist attacks on
the United States and neighboring countries. While these
controls have been adopted for security reasons and to
prevent a large influx of undocumented workers, they also
effectively serve to prevent large-scale trafficking in
persons into Singapore. Singapore also has allowed employers
to legally bring in large numbers of domestics and unskilled
workers, and at low wages (Singapore lacks a minimum wage);
with ready access to inexpensive foreign labor through legal
channels, few employers wish to risk draconian penalties by
hiring illegal employees, including trafficking victims.
Most sex-workers enter Singapore willingly on a social or
student visa, though some have been coerced or tricked into
engaging in prostitution once they arrive in Singapore. NGO
contacts and most consular officials here say the authorities
fully investigate such allegations and are anxious to
prosecute traffickers when evidence is available, although
they prefer to keep such cases quiet. One High Commission of
a country in the Indian sub-continent perceives, however,
that the authorities are unwilling to fully investigate
allegations of coercion by its women engaged in prostitution.
This was out of step with what we heard from all other
source-country embassies, which lauded Singapore police and
government efforts to investigate possible trafficking cases.
The general consensus among Embassy contacts in the
government, civil society and diplomatic circles is that
Singapore is willing to devote whatever resources are
necessary to combating these problems. One foreign consul
from a source country, after asking why Singapore was ranked
in Tier II, asked "what more can (the United States) expect
them to do?"
Officials from the above High Commission also report a
significantly higher incidence of alleged coercion than other
consular sections, which they attribute to a much stronger
social stigma against prostitution in their culture. Such a
stigma may make women both less likely to prostitute
themselves willingly, and less likely to admit willingness if
they do. It has been clear to us for more than a year that
this particular High Commission is an "outlier" in its poor
relations with the Singapore police, perhaps in part because
of the unusually high number of its nationals detained for a
broad range of crimes. We have also noted this High
Commission's acceptance, with little investigation, of claims
by its nationals to be victims of coercion.
In 1998, the government recognized that live-in foreign
domestics are especially vulnerable to physical or sexual
abuse, and Parliament passed legislation that significantly
enhanced penalties for abusers. In two cases at the end of
2001, the Chief Justice greatly increased sentences for two
abusive employers, and publicly called upon judges to impose
severe penalties in such cases. Highly publicized
prosecutions and lengthy sentences have cut substantiated
abuse cases by nearly 75 percent as compared to 1997,
according to statistics provided by the MFA.
In April 2004, the Ministry of Manpower introduced mandatory
training for both new employers and foreign domestic workers.
Employers are required to take a class that spells out their
responsibilities to their maids, including the fact that they
must pay on time and may not hold travel documents. It also
counsels employers on cultural sensitivity and attempts to
instill reasonable expectations for domestic workers,
performance. Current employers who come to the Ministry's
attention as potential problems also may be required to take
the class. New FDWs are now trained in basic safety
measures, informed of their rights, told about resources
available to them for assistance, and provided handbooks in
their native language. In the first six months of operation,
over 9,000 employers and over 21,000 domestic workers
attended these classes, including U.S. Embassy personnel.
In October 2004, the Ministry of Manpower took further steps
to improve protection of foreign domestic workers (FDWs),
including raising the minimum age for FDWs from 18 to 23 and
requiring at least 8 years of formal education (enforced
through a literacy test) in order to attract women who are
better able to understand both their rights and
responsibilities, and better able to adapt to life in
Singapore. The Ministry has also set out new regulations for
employers, including lower thresholds for blacklisting
employers, and it has made the pilot system for accrediting
maid agencies mandatory as of June 2004. The Ministry
reports that it has already sanctioned several of Singapore's
largest agencies for not adhering to the Ministry's strict
H. Do governmental authorities or individual members of
government forces facilitate or condone trafficking, or are
they otherwise complicit in such activities? If so, at what
levels? Do government authorities (such as customs, border
guards, immigration officials, labor inspectors, local
police, or others) receive bribes from traffickers or
otherwise assist in their operations? What punitive
measures, if any, have been taken against those individuals
complicit or involved in trafficking? Please provide
numbers, as applicable, of government officials involved,
accused, investigated, prosecuted, convicted and sentenced.
Neither government authorities nor individual government
officials condone or assist trafficking. Singapore has a
well-earned reputation for having an extremely low rate of
corruption, assisted by an aggressive government
anti-corruption agency with strong powers that pursues and
prosecutes any lapse. It is consistently ranked as one of the
least corrupt countries in the world. Trafficking-related
corruption (and therefore trafficking itself) is effectively
deterred by these measures.
I. What are the limitations on the government's ability to
address this problem in practice? For example, is funding
for police or other institutions inadequate? Is overall
corruption a problem? Does the government lack the resources
to aid victims?
Singapore maintains a well-financed and well-trained cadre of
police, immigration and public health officials to prevent
the occurrence of trafficking. Post is confident that
Singapore would make additional resources available if
convinced they were necessary to combat trafficking in
J. To what extent does the government systematically monitor
its anti-trafficking efforts (on all fronts -- prosecution,
prevention and victim protection) and periodically make
available, publicly or privately and directly or through
regional/international organizations, its assessments of
these anti-trafficking efforts?
The Singapore Government maintains records of its efforts
related to trafficking, including prosecutions, repatriations
of foreign sex workers, complaints of maid abuse, other
complaints by foreign workers, and the number of immigrants
refused entry for suspected intent to prostitute themselves.
In general, the Singapore government has a parsimonious
attitude toward release of information to the public on
sensitive subjects. However, in the past it has been
forthcoming in dealings with the Embassy on trafficking,
including providing written responses to a lengthy series of
questions, and arranging a high-level interagency meeting to
brief and answer questions in person. It also has been
available to meet with U.S. government officials to discuss
trafficking issues, for example when U.S. Department of
Justice officials visited to discuss Singapore's
anti-trafficking efforts, and consult on possibilities for
cooperation with Indonesia.
K. Is prostitution legalized or decriminalized?
Specifically, are the activities of the prostitute
criminalized? Are the activities of the brothel
owner/operator, clients, pimps, and enforcers criminalized?
If prostitution is legal and regulated, what is the legal
minimum age for this activity?
Prostitution per se is not illegal. However, public
solicitation is illegal, and it is illegal for third parties
to live off the earnings of prostitutes. While police make
some arrests for solicitation offenses, prosecutions are
rare; the Embassy is not aware of any such prosecutions in
2004. Almost all sex workers in Singapore come from other
countries. Entry into Singapore for the purpose of
prostitution or pimping is not permitted, giving police legal
grounds to detain and repatriate suspected foreign sex
workers. From January to November 2004, authorities detained
approximately 4,600 foreign women as suspected sex workers.
A few -- approximately five percent -- of these women were
prosecuted for having overstayed their visas in Singapore,
but most were simply expelled after screening for possible
coercion and efforts to elicit cooperation as witnesses
against vice operators. In addition, authorities can exclude
from entry persons they believe may be entering to engage in
prostitution; 540 foreign women were denied entry on these
grounds between 2001-2003.
The law allows authorities to detain for rehabilitation women
and girls under the age of 21 who are suspected of
involvement in prostitution. Since 1999, official
information is that only seven persons have been held under
this clause. The cases were: four Cambodian girls determined
to be 16-17 years old after medical examination (1999); one
18-year old Singaporean (2000); one 12-year old Malaysian
(2002); and one 16-year old PRC girl (2002). All were placed
in the Toa Payoh Girl's Home and given counseling; except for
the Singaporean, all were prosecution witnesses against the
The government does not regard 16 and 17-year old sex workers
as "trafficking" victims if they have knowingly and willingly
engaged in the trade. Nevertheless, the government
prosecutes third parties involved in their prostitution, when
girls are willing to be prosecution witnesses.
From a customer's standpoint, only consensual sex acts with
girls under the age of 16 are illegal. All homosexual acts
of any kind are illegal, though prosecutions in recent years
have been rare.
Operating a brothel and living off the earnings of a
prostitute (pimping) are illegal. From January to November
2004, authorities prosecuted 4 pimps and 63 "vice abettors"
(e.g., brothel operators). In addition, third parties
involved in the prostitution of girls under the age of 16
face enhanced penalties.
These legal structures are modified by the government's
policy of "discretionary enforcement" in designated red light
areas. After over 20 years of unsuccessful concerted efforts
to stamp out prostitution in the 1960s and 70s, the
Government decided to take a pragmatic approach to the issue,
allowing some brothels to operate in designated areas.
Cracking down on prostitution had forced the industry
underground, leading to heavy involvement of organized
criminal elements and high rates of sexually transmitted
diseases. In exchange for the Government's tolerance of
their activities, "authorized" brothels must adhere to strict
guidelines. Before commencing work, police interview each
woman to ensure she is a voluntary participant in the sex
trade. All the women must be at least 21 years old, go
through explicit "safe sex" training, submit themselves to
biweekly medical checkups, and carry a yellow "health" card.
These sex workers may work only in the tolerated brothels,
and may not solicit on the street or in other establishments.
L. Does the practice of buying or selling child brides
(brides under the age of 18 years) occur in the country? If
so, describe. Do men of the country travel abroad to
purchase child brides? If so, describe.
Embassy is unaware of any cases involving the purchase or
sale of child brides either in Singapore or by Singaporeans
abroad. For a fuller explanation of Singapore's regulations
regarding child brides, see Ref B.
A. Does the government acknowledge that trafficking is a
problem in that country? If no, why not?
The Government of Singapore acknowledges that a small number
of sex-workers in Singapore are trafficking victims, and that
there are some problems of ill-treatment of foreign domestic
workers (although they would classify these as labor issues,
not trafficking). The GOS's assessment -- shared by this
Embassy -- is, however, that trafficking in persons is rare.
Authorities remain vigilant, and continue to take actions
that directly or indirectly reduce the likelihood of
The government does not describe as "trafficking" some cases
that we would so classify; these cases include 16- and
17-year olds wittingly and willingly engaged in prostitution,
and "work disputes" involving women who entered Singapore for
the purpose of prostitution. Despite these definitional
differences, the government prosecutes the vice operators
involved in these cases, when it has prosecution witnesses.
Victims in these categories are rare, as described in
Overview Answer A.
B. Which government agencies are involved in
-- Singapore's Immigration and Checkpoints Authority controls
the borders and looks for illegal immigrants, including
trafficking victims, and for persons who employ or harbor
-- The police monitor the sex industry, including through the
use of informants and street patrols (uniformed and
undercover). They interview women detained for public
solicitation and pimps, and look for coercion. Police also
investigate complaints from foreign domestics alleging
physical or sexual abuse by employers. Until shortly before
trial, police are responsible for law enforcement-related
interaction with witnesses in criminal cases, including
-- The Attorney General's Chambers prosecutes both
trafficking and domestic abuse cases.
-- The Ministry of Manpower investigates complaints by
foreign workers about pay or working conditions, attempts to
resolve problems through mediation or enforcement action, and
carries out education efforts among both employers and
-- The Ministry of Community Development, Youth, and Sports
(MCYS) assists victims with counseling and obtaining
temporary shelter, if required.
C. Are there or have there been government-run
anti-trafficking information or education campaigns? If so,
briefly describe the campaign(s), including their objectives
and effectiveness. Do these campaigns target potential
trafficking victims and/or the demand for trafficking (e.g.
"clients" of prostitutes or beneficiaries of forced labor)?
There are no specific "anti-trafficking" campaigns. However,
the Ministry of Manpower seeks to inform employers and
employees about the rights of foreign workers, who comprise
nearly 30 percent of Singapore's labor force. These
publicity efforts include Singapore's tough laws against
abuse of domestics or harboring illegal immigrants. One such
campaign in 2004 highlighted examples of both good and bad
working conditions for foreign domestic workers, and sought
to adjust employers, expectations about what they can
reasonably expect from a domestic helper. In March 2005, the
government-linked Straits Times ran a nine-page special
segment on the sacrifices foreign domestic workers make in
coming here, and their importance to their family and
community in their home country. It also listed contact
information for various organizations devoted to the welfare
of foreign workers and encouraged people to volunteer. NGO
contacts say that press coverage given to abuse cases and
other foreign worker issues, combined with Singapore's new
regulations and improved efforts to publicize those
regulations, has had a significant positive impact on the
welfare of the foreign workers here.
The Government has also sought to improve people's awareness
of the regulations protecting foreign workers -- whether from
abuse, non-payment of wages, or confiscation of travel
documents ) and the consequences of violating those laws.
Tough prosecutions and sentences in domestic abuse cases, and
Singapore's rare sex trafficking cases, are highly publicized
through government efforts. This publicity is designed to
deter abuse and trafficking, and to encourage victims to step
forward with confidence that their allegations will be dealt
In 2004 there were also publicity campaigns run by various
NGOs, particularly against sex tourism, which have been
featured in the government-linked Straits Times newspaper as
well as other government-linked media outlets. The aim has
been to limit the demand by increasing awareness and
discomfort among men who frequent the nearby Indonesian Riau
islands, their spouses, and society as a whole. One campaign
focused particularly on under-aged victims of sex tourism,
while another -- sponsored in part by the Singapore
government -- highlighted the public health risks of sex
tourism in general. Some NGOs also report that they are
receiving increased attention from the government-linked
media; one NGO noted that the day after one story appeared in
the paper, it received approximately 60 calls from women
looking for assistance in leaving the sex trade.
D. Does the government support other programs to prevent
trafficking? (e.g., to promote women's participation in
economic decision-making or efforts to keep children in
school.) Please explain.
This question seems addressed to countries that are origin
countries for trafficking victims; Singapore is not a victim
origin country. Singapore has a first world economy that
provides good protections and opportunities for women.
E. Is the government able to support prevention programs?
F. What is the relationship between government officials,
NGOs, other relevant organizations and other elements of
civil society on the trafficking issue?
The government has a good relationship with NGOs that deal
with foreign workers or sex workers (see 9.H.), and NGO
contacts report that government openness to suggestions and
criticisms from civil society groups is good. The Ministry
of Manpower's Foreign Manpower Management Division has formed
partnerships with NGOs dedicated to migrant workers, welfare
as well as with source country embassies, and has gotten
involved with specific projects to promote the welfare of
foreign workers, e.g., the Bayanihan Centre, which provides
skills training and recreational activities for Filipina
FDWs. Our NGO contacts report that they have access to
high-level officials at relevant agencies, and that they
believe the government listens to and acts upon their
suggestions and criticisms.
In 2004, the government became somewhat more open to social
activism. It registered its first NGO dedicated exclusively
to assisting women who wish to escape from prostitution. It
has also allowed Bridget Lew, formerly of the Commission for
Migrants and Itinerant People, to form a new group dedicated
to vulnerable workers, known as the Humanitarian Organization
for Migration Economics, or HOME, which is now one of the
Ministry of Manpower's civil society partners. The
government has also registered the Working Committee Two,
which worked on behalf of domestic workers, as a society
(after several years of hedging). It is now known as
"Transient Workers Count Too," and ultimately aims to address
the needs not just of domestics, but of other migrant workers
as well (the role of other foreign workers in Singapore is
considered a more politically sensitive issue than domestic
workers). Our NGO contacts all say they are pleased with
their relationships with the government, and report that it
has become easier for them to operate in Singapore and to
comment on sensitive issues such as prostitution,
trafficking, and labor issues than it was even a year ago.
The government also has excellent relations with the
embassies of the various source countries. All but one
report that the authorities strongly pursue investigations of
allegations they bring to the government's attention, whether
of sex-trafficking, maid abuse or work permit violations.
Most say that the new regulations regarding foreign workers
have been helpful in securing their welfare, although there
is some concern that education requirements may disadvantage
their nationals, many of whom cannot meet the new literacy
G. Does the government adequately monitor its borders? Does
it monitor immigration and emigration patterns for evidence
of trafficking? Do law enforcement agencies respond
appropriately to such evidence?
Singapore has one of the world's toughest immigration
regimes, and the Government moved to further step up controls
after September 11, 2001. These measures act as substantial
barriers to illegal immigration, and to trafficking in
persons as a subset of this problem. Embassy assumes that
Singapore monitors immigration and emigration patterns, but
the government will not reveal how it analyzes and uses
information collected at immigration checkpoints. NGOs and
consular officials say the Singapore government is attentive
to all indications of trafficking and thoroughly investigates
when there is evidence of such crimes.
The Ministry of Manpower can and does bar persons from
employing foreign domestics based on past abuse. From
January to September 2004, the Ministry blacklisted 54
employers for abusing their maids, and between 2001 and June
2003 jailed 22 employers for abuse. The Ministry also bars
some employers of other foreign workers from obtaining work
permits based on patterns of misconduct (e.g., nonpayment of
wages); in industries heavily dependent on foreign workers,
such as construction, the prospect of being so barred acts as
a strong incentive for employers not to mistreat their
H. Is there a mechanism for coordination and communication
between various agencies, such as a multi-agency working
group or task force? Does the government have a trafficking
in persons task force? Does the government have a public
corruption task force?
There is an independent anti-corruption agency with broad
powers, which aggressively pursues cases of possible
There is not a formal anti-trafficking task force; however,
Singapore is an efficiently run municipality of 4 million,
and interagency coordination within its small government is
generally excellent. In addition, government agencies
cooperate well with foreign diplomatic representatives and
NGOs in dealing with the rare cases of trafficking, and in
implementing measures that prevent trafficking from occurring.
I. Does the government coordinate with or participate in
multinational or international working groups or efforts to
prevent, monitor, or control trafficking?
Singapore is a participant in activities under ASEAN and APEC
which combat transnational crime, including trafficking. In
December 2004, Singapore signed a Mutual Legal Assistance
Treaty (MLAT) with eight other ASEAN countries designed to
combat transnational crimes, including TIP, more effectively.
In November 2004, ASEAN heads of government, including
Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, signed a
Declaration Against Trafficking in Persons Particularly Women
and Children, which recognized the urgent need for a
comprehensive regional approach to prevent and combat
trafficking, and agreed to enhance cooperation between
regional immigration and law enforcement officials. In April
2005, Singapore government officials will participate in an
NGO-sponsored conference on sex tourism. Singaporean
officials have participated in two USG-funded conferences:
the first was hosted by Embassy Singapore in January 2004.
It brought together representatives from 21 countries and ICE
attaches from across the region. The presentations and
discussions focused on sex tourism, child pornography, and
forced child labor. The second was held in Batam, Indonesia
in February with funding from DOJ/ICITAP. It brought
together police representatives from Indonesia, Malaysia and
Singapore to discuss information sharing and strategies to
combat TIP and people smuggling.
Singapore also participated in the first two iterations of
the Regional Ministerial Conference on People Smuggling,
Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime (Bali
Conference), with Foreign Minister Jayakumar leading the
inaugural delegation, and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs
Lee Yock Suan heading the delegation in 2003. Singapore was
also a participant in the Pacific Rim Intelligence Conference
in New Zealand in 2002 that addressed anti-trafficking
problems world-wide. Singaporean officials have participated
in anti-trafficking conferences hosted by DHS immigration
officials in Bangkok and regularly attend International Law
Enforcement Academy (ILEA) courses that include
J. Does the government have a national plan of action to
address trafficking in persons? If so, which agencies were
involved in developing it? Were NGOs consulted in the
process? What steps has the government taken to disseminate
the action plan?
Based on the ability of existing law enforcement and
immigration mechanisms to prevent trafficking, Singapore does
not have a national plan of action against trafficking in
persons. The government does periodically review its laws
and regulations to ensure that they are adequate. For
example, in 2003 the GOS reviewed measures to protect foreign
domestic workers, and ultimately decided to raise age and
education requirements, institute training classes for both
employers and employees, lower the threshold for blacklisting
problem employers, and make the accreditation system for maid
agencies mandatory. It is now reviewing some of its
regulations related to vice and social issues, and local NGOs
are lobbying the government to change its definition of
trafficking to reflect the U.N. definition. The government
has discussed possible measures with both NGOs and officials
from labor source country embassies; the Ministry of Manpower
is engaged in active partnerships with several NGOs dedicated
to foreign worker welfare, and a local NGO is consulting with
Members of Parliament as they draft a child sex tourism law.
K. Is there some entity or person responsible for developing
anti-trafficking programs within the government?
No; activities related to anti-trafficking are developed and
implemented by the agencies described in answer to question B
above, and coordinated with other agencies as required.