Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Home for victims of human trafficking in Sabah

A safe house for victims of human trafficking will be opened at an undisclosed location here very soon - the first of its kind in Sabah.

State Assistant Community Development and Consumer Affairs Minister, Herbert Timbun Lagadan, said the fully-protected house capable of accommodating up to 20 people at a time would come under the Ministry.

The place was gazetted for the purpose at the end of last year, he told reporters after representing Minister Datuk Azizah Mohd Dun in opening a strategic planning workshop for facilitating the formation of Sabah's anti-human trafficking committee at Hyatt Regency Kinabalu, in Kota Kinabalu yesterday.

"This shows the State Government has been very proactive in providing for those falling victim to human trafficking ... the place is meant basically for those women abused this way," said Herbert.

With the opening of the safe-house, victims would no longer have to be sent to such facilities in the peninsula, like what happened in one or two cases last year.

The cases he mentioned involved foreign women in Sabah who claimed to have become victims of human trafficking.

On Sabahan victims of human trafficking in Singapore, Herbert said the Ministry is gathering details on the matter. "We will act appropriately (once all this is completed)," he said.

Meanwhile, in her speech read by Herbert, Azizah said the State Government is also ready to assist the Anti-Human Trafficking Council (Mapo).

"If the Federal Government takes seriously the human trafficking issue, the State Government also will not just take a 'sit and look' stand," she said.

Citing the proposed formation of a State-level anti-human trafficking committee as an example, Azizah said it would be similar to the national-level Mapo and vital for Sabah.

"(Because) Sabah is another main point of entry to this country. At the same time, Sabah attracts many foreigners seeking work in the plantation industries and we need to ensure 'human trafficking' does not occur among migrant workers," she said.

To effectively prevent and eradicate it, efforts should be started with awareness because when people are aware about this issue they will definitely be more cautious.

The State-level anti-human trafficking committee was proposed during the State Legislative Assembly sitting in April this year in the effort to curb human trafficking under the Anti-Human Trafficking Act.

Tuesday's workshop was meant to review the findings from five earlier workshops held early this year to increase understanding on human trafficking, to introduce the contents of the Human Trafficking Act 2007 which are related to a formation of the committee, to facilitate the formation of an anti-human trafficking committee as well as to discuss the action plans that need to be undertaken by the said committee.

Assistant Youth and Sports Minister, Datuk Jahid Jahim, Secretary of Mapo Secretariat under the Home Ministry, Ahmad Ismail, and Coordinator of Archdiocesan Human Development Committee (AHDC), were also present.

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