Victims of human trafficking are seen at a halfway house in Manila in 2007
Singapore lambasted Washington Tuesday for what it said were numerous "inaccuracies" in a damning human trafficking report, while tentatively welcoming the city-state's removal from a watchlist.
The State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, released Monday, elevated Singapore's ranking to Tier 2, which means that while it does not fully meet standards on human trafficking, it is making efforts to do so.
This effectively removed Singapore from a group of countries put on the human trafficking watchlist.
"We note the change to Singapore's tier ranking... but we are dismayed to find the US TIP report riddled with inaccuracies in the section on Singapore," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
"Such a casual approach to the facts is troubling."
The ministry took exception to the US report about forced labour on fishing vessels originating from Singapore, which it said was "untrue and unverified."
It urged the United States to "thoroughly investigate the 'reports' before faulting us for not pursuing our 'phantom' ships," the ministry said.
Singapore also took the United States to task for saying that trafficking victims were not afforded the opportunity to avail themselves of medical and other services at shelters over the past year.
"We are puzzled by this statement," the ministry said, adding it had given the US details of the assistance it extended to trafficking victims.
"While we can acknowledge that much remains to be done in our fight against trafficking, we are disappointed that the United States chose to blatantly dismiss the facts and suggest that we are not doing our share," it said.
Singapore said the US had "again unabashedly" given itself the top Tier 1 ranking despite inadequacies in its own approach to human trafficking.
It cited a New York Times report which said that teenage girls coerced into prostitution in the US are treated not as trafficking victims but as "miscreants who are arrested and prosecuted, instead of protected."
"As is well known, the United States also suffers from serious problems with illegal immigrants, many of whom are trafficked by well-organised criminal gangs which seem to be able to operate with impunity," the ministry said.
"On any objective criteria, the United States has a more serious TIP problem compared with Singapore."