Immigration softens stance towards trafficked people in bid to catch traffickers

Kenneth Tee

Immigration Department’s Chief of Enforcement, Investigation and Prosecution Saravana Kumar speaks during the Asean Security Symposium in Kuala Lumpur August 28, 2018. ― Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 28 ― The Immigration Department has changed its treatment towards foreigners trafficked into the country in a bid to nab the masterminds behind the trafficking syndicates.

Its chief of enforcement, investigation and prosecution Saravana Kumar said the department has adopted a softer stance and provide more support in order to persuade the victims of the trafficking trade to remain in Malaysia after they have been rescued to obtain as much information as possible.

“We need to ensure their cooperation and for them to continue staying in the country so that the prosecution process can move forward,” he said at the International Association of Counterterrorism and Security Professionals counter-terrorism symposium at the InterContinental Hotel here.

“However, some of these victims refused to cooperate after they are placed in shelter homes for a month or two, foregoing any trial or compensation they may receive throughout the prosecution process,” he added.

Saravana said his department was challenged to catch the leaders of human trafficking rings because the investigation links were often lost once the victims left the country.

“When these victims are placed in shelter homes after they are rescued, they eventually lose their main motivation, that is their primary source of income.

“Although we provide counselling and emotional support to them, they have nothing else to look forward to which is why we came up with an incentive programme to allow them to continue working in the country after the prosecution has completed,” he added this would encourage victims to extend their stay with the promise of future legal employment in order to facilitate investigations process.

He said technology also helped human traffickers stay ahead of law enforcers, who needed more time to complete investigations.

“Some of these traffickers even hold the victim’s family to ransom or threaten them in the home country which also contributes to their insistence of returning home to avoid repercussion.

“The department has no choice but to let them go because these are just voluntary arrangements for the victims as they are not criminals to be kept behind bars,” he said.

Saravana said public awareness was as important as ensuring cooperation of trafficked victims because the public can provide information of alleged trafficking to authorities.

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