The government increased protection efforts. Police, labor, and immigration officials had standard operating procedures for identifying victims, and the government had a victim referral process among government officials, civil society organizations, and foreign embassies. The government reported identifying 32 potential trafficking victims (nine sex and 23 labor trafficking victims), an increase compared with 20 potential victims (eight sex trafficking victims and 12 labor trafficking victims) in 2017. All police officers received basic training on victim identification; however, several NGOs reported officials failed to recognize key indicators of trafficking when interviewing potential victims, particularly in cases involving psychological coercion or debt bondage, and among migrant workers. NGOs also voiced concern that police did not consistently screen for trafficking indicators when police raided unlicensed brothels; as a result, the government may have prosecuted or punished unidentified sex trafficking victims for immigration violations or public solicitation. NGOs reported they provided services to several thousand migrant workers who experienced varying degrees of labor law violations or exploitation in 2018. Several of these NGOs believed a significant number of the cases they encountered were of forced labor.
The government guaranteed food, shelter, psycho-social services, and other basic assistance to trafficking victims under the PHTA and used administrative discretion to provide additional support measures, customized according to victims’ needs, including interpreters, medical services, temporary work permits, and resettlement assistance. However, absent a formal policy mandating the provision of these services to all victims, and due to front-line officers’ incomplete understanding of the effect of psychological coercion on a person, some victims likely did not receive all services necessary for rehabilitation.
The government allocated 2.8 million SGD ($2.06 million) in 2018 in its annual budget, a decrease compared with 3.2 million SGD ($2.35 million) in 2017, for anti-trafficking activities, including shelter and protection services. The government fully funded shelters for the cost of caring for trafficking victims. The Ministry of Social and Family Development funded four NGO-run shelters for women, one of which specifically served as a shelter for up to 48 female trafficking victims and exploited foreign domestic workers. MOM funded two shelters, with a total capacity of 68 individuals, for male foreign workers, one of which is designated for use by male trafficking victims. The government provided partial funding and oversight to 22 homes serving vulnerable children. Authorities permitted freedom of movement outside of the shelter for most shelter residents but restricted movement for any residents deemed to be under physical threat. Several other NGOs and two foreign government embassies also provided shelter to trafficking victims and others who had experienced labor exploitation.
The government allocated funding for an NGO to provide victims with trauma recovery and safe resettlement services including counseling and medical care, skill development, legal support, employment, and assistance with resettlement in the victim’s home country. In 2018, the NGO continued to support 11 foreign labor trafficking victims referred by the government in an earlier reporting period and provided trauma recovery services for 106 foreign domestic workers who were victims of abusive labor conditions but not identified by the government as trafficking victims. In 2018, the government permitted five victims who were material witnesses in court cases against their former employers to return to their home country, at the government’s expense, pending trial procedures, compared with four victims in 2017. The government granted seven victims short-term work permits, available for the duration of their legal processes, the same number as in 2017.
In October 2018, the Chief Justice, in collaboration with an NGO, state courts, and legal organizations, launched a toolkit to help children and other vulnerable witnesses understand court proceedings. In March 2018, the High Court stipulated that in criminal cases of abuse of foreign domestic workers, courts should consider compensation for pain and suffering as well as restitution for wages. NGOs reported they offered victims of trafficking pro bono legal assistance to pursue civil court claims for restitution; all victims declined this offer in 2018. The government did not provide long-term alternatives to removal to countries where victims may face hardship or retribution.