07/06/2010, 00.00
SINGAPORE - UNITED STATES
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The United States accuses Singapore of human trafficking

by Jeremy Lim
Singapore does little to prevent prostitution and labour exploitation. The U.S. State Department report on human trafficking puts the city-state alongside Afghanistan, Iraq, China and India. Singapore rejects the allegations and calls the U.S. to examine data more carefully.

Singapore (AsiaNews) – The Singapore Government and the U.S. State Department have clashed over the issue of trafficking workers and prostitutes. In recent days the authorities of the city-state have published a document in response to criticisms of non-compliance contained in the annual U.S. report on human trafficking. "Singapore-reads the paper – does not have a serious problem of trafficking in persons. The United States should perhaps examine their data more carefully before deciding on other countries”.

In the annual Trafficking in Persons Report 2009, published in June, Washington included Singapore alongside countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, China and India.

According to the report there are active criminal groups operating in the sex trade in women and children in Singapore. They attract the victims from Thailand, Philippines and China with the promise of legal jobs or tourist visas, but once in Singapore force them into prostitution. They meet clients in publically owned dormitories for migrant workers. The U.S. State Department says that "the government has shown an inadequate response to the problem of sex trafficking in Singapore", avoiding the punishment of criminals and waiting for victims to come forward instead of proceeding on its own initiative.

Singapore denies being "passive and unresponsive" to the crime and calls on U.S. to review its data.

In a counter-report, published on July 2 last, the government of the city-state cites the 2252 inspections made in 2009 to control foreign workers. It also denies allegations of lack of commitment to punish forced labour, citing the 476 employers prosecuted in 2009, but under different clauses of the Penal Code. In the report the government indicates the 2600 operations against prostitution, the arrest of over 7600 people, an increase compared to 1400 operations and 5047 arrests in 2008.

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