The information used in the preparation of the Trafficking in Persons (TiP) report by the US State Department was flawed and inaccurate, with the source deemed as not credible, the Malaysian Foreign Ministry said today.

The ministry said the report had relied on unverified information that was provided by dubious organisations.

“Malaysia is serious and committed in addressing the issue of human trafficking and smuggling of migrants. This commitment is manifested through the significant efforts undertaken to improve the existing mechanisms and to effectively combat this heinous crime.

“Despite claims that Malaysia made insufficient progress and improvements in areas of prosecution, prevention and protection, on the contrary, Malaysia has consistently pursued measures and initiatives in addressing the issues of trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants. The US State Department itself in this 2014 report acknowledged these positive measures in efforts to protect victims, where certain victims of labour trafficking were allowed to reside and work in Malaysia,” Wisma Putra said in a statement.

Citing the Rohingya refugees as an example, it is estimated that 35,000 are currently seeking political asylum in Malaysia.

“The Government of Malaysia has done everything permitted under its domestic laws to ease the sufferings of these migrants, with the hope that they would be resettled in a third country or choose to return to their homes when the situation improves. While Malaysia has been doing everything expected from a responsible member of the international community to address the issue of trafficking in persons, irrespective of nationality, it should not be expected to carry out a policy of treating migrants better than its own nationals.”

On March 1, 2014, a new policy was enacted to allow victims of labour trafficking, that do not require further care and protection at shelter homes, to work and reside in Malaysia.

The issuance of work permits under this new policy is currently limited to labour trafficking cases involving salary disputes, and subject to conditions set by the Council of Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants (MAPO).

During the same month, the government also finalised the establishment of a shelter home for trafficking victims in Bandar Sri Damansara.

This pilot project, whereby the management and daily operations are undertaken by an NGO, is part of the government’s efforts to enhance cooperation with NGOs in improving the detention environment of trafficked victims.

The government has approved an estimated RM800,000 of seed funding for the operations of the shelter home, and is considering having more of such homes in the future.

Along with these efforts, the government in November 2013 had launched a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for enforcement agencies to serve as a guideline in combating trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants.

On the bilateral front, Wisma Putra said that Malaysia continues to collaborate with key countries to enhance information sharing, intelligence networking and monitoring of human smuggling activities. To this effect, Malaysia has signed Memoranda of Understanding on transnational organised crime with six countries, namely Bangladesh, Canada, People's Republic of China, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom and the United States.

At the regional level, Malaysia plays its role in curbing trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrant activities through the framework of the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime (AMMTC) and the Annual Senior Officials Meeting (SOMTC).

Malaysia also supports the measures to help combat people smuggling, trafficking in persons and related transnational crime in the Asia-Pacific region through the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime (Bali Process).

However, Wisma Putra did not deny that combating trafficking in person s still a work in progress for Malaysia.

“Malaysia will spare no efforts to eradicate this heinous crime and will continue to work in the ambit of the main domestic laws relating to trafficking in persons, namely the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act (ATIPSOM) 2007. This law is being reviewed from time to time to ensure its relevance and effectiveness.”

On Friday, the US State Department had released a report which downgraded Malaysia to Tier 3 from the previous standing of Tier 2 Watch List.

Only three other countries were downgraded this year, namely Thailand, Venezuela and the Gambia.

Under Tier 1, are countries whose governments fully comply with the Victims Protection (TVPA) Act minimum standards. Most of the developed countries fall under this tier.

Tier 2 are countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards. Most Asean countries such as Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam fall under this category.

Countries in Tier 3 are those whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.

The US department had noted that there was ample evidence of forced labour and sex trafficking in Malaysia, which was a “destination and, to a lesser extent, a source and transit country for men, women and children subjected to sex trafficking.”

Malaysia was automatically downgraded to Tier 3 after four consecutive years of barely holding on to the Tier 2 category, a move that could result in economic sanctions and loss of development aid for the country.