The government decreased protection efforts. The government identified 26 potential trafficking victims, all sex trafficking victims, compared with 23 potential victims (16 sex trafficking victims and seven labor trafficking victims) in 2020. Police, labor, and immigration officials had standard operating procedures for identifying victims, and other government officials, civil society organizations, and foreign embassies could refer potential victims to MOM and the Singapore Police Force. Several NGOs continued to report government 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 voiced concern police did not consistently screen for trafficking indicators during raids on unlicensed commercial sex establishments. In July 2021, authorities raided 27 karaoke bars operating illegally under pandemic restrictions and arrested and charged 29 women with crimes under the Women’s Charter, the Immigration Act, and the EFMA and deported 10 of them; the government reported screening the women for trafficking indicators but did not identify any victims. An NGO reported that two cases they encountered exhibited possible trafficking indicators and that authorities may have penalized or deported numerous unidentified labor trafficking victims. The government reported screening PRC nationals for trafficking indicators in the onboarding centers upon arrival in Singapore and conducting labor inspections at worksites of PRC-affiliated companies.
The government did not report providing assistance to any of the 26 potential trafficking victims, compared with providing assistance to 24 potential trafficking victims, including shelter services for 16, in 2020. The government continued to provide assistance, including shelter, to seven trafficking victims from previous years. The government, in partnership with NGOs, could provide food, temporary shelter, counseling, and other protective services to trafficking victims; as outlined in section 19 of PHTA. Potential trafficking victims could receive assistance before authorities established an investigation as a trafficking case. These services were not contingent on a victim’s assistance in the investigations but are assessed by the Director-General of Social Welfare whether they are considered practicable and necessary in the circumstances of the case; the government reported that so far no identified potential trafficking victim has been refused services. The government funded four shelters with a total capacity of 234 for female victims of crime, including trafficking, and their children. The government offered shelter services to all 26 potential trafficking victims; however, the government reported none of the potential victims used shelter services, as they stayed at other accommodations. The pandemic temporarily reduced the total capacity until December 2021; the Ministry of Social and Family Development opened an additional temporary shelter to ensure sufficient capacity. MOM funded two additional shelters, with a total capacity of 68 individuals, for male foreign workers, one of which was specifically designated for use by male trafficking victims. The government also provided partial funding and oversight to 21 homes serving vulnerable children, including child trafficking victims. Authorities permitted freedom of movement outside of the shelter for most shelter residents but restricted movement for residents deemed to be under physical threat. Several other NGOs and two foreign government embassies could also provide shelter to trafficking victims.
The government, in partnership with NGOs, could provide additional support measures, customized to victims’ needs, including interpreters, medical services, skill development, temporary work permits, legal support, and resettlement assistance. Some victims may not have received all services necessary for rehabilitation as the government lacked a formal policy mandating the provision of services to all victims and instead provided some services on a case-by-case basis. Some NGOs noted the interpreters provided did not receive training to work with trafficking victims and were usually from the victim’s home country, which put additional pressure on the victim. The government reported spending approximately 66,000 SGD ($48,820) to provide care and support services for trafficking victims, compared with 156,000 SGD ($115,380) in 2020. An NGO continued to support 10 foreign trafficking victims referred by the government in prior reporting periods. The government reported four victims continued to utilize short-term work permits, available for the duration of the investigation and prosecution of the alleged trafficker; compared with five victims in the previous reporting period.
Courts did not provide restitution to any trafficking victims during the reporting period, and the government reported no victims sought restitution in 2021. NGOs offered trafficking victims Pro bono legal assistance to pursue compensation in civil court. The government, in partnership with two NGOs, created a legal toolkit for victims of crime, including trafficking victims, to navigate the criminal justice system. The government issued special immigration passes that allowed foreign victims to remain and work in the country for the duration of investigations and legal proceedings. However, an NGO reported that contrary to current policy, which would allow a foreign victim to apply for new employment and a work permit after the proceedings completed, authorities most likely required foreign victims to leave the country in practice. The government could provide protective measures for victims who participated in prosecutions, including in-camera court proceedings for child victims, protection of the victim’s identity, and media gag-orders for all sex trafficking cases. The government reported one victim participated as a witness in a child sex trafficking prosecution; court proceedings were ongoing, and authorities referred the victim to protective services.
In 2020, the government established an interagency team of officers to manage the risk and outbreaks of the COVID-19 virus among migrant workers and address workers’ issues, including employment, within migrant worker dormitories. However, NGOs reported front-line officers deployed to migrant worker dormitories focused primarily on pandemic- mitigation efforts and did not proactively screen for trafficking indicators; as a result, some victims may have remained unidentified. In 2021, the government expanded a phone application’s ability, previously created for pandemic-related health tracking purposes, to be used to report employer related issues, including trafficking, to MOM directly; NGOs welcomed this expansion of reporting as it increased interactions and reporting options. MOM continued to publicize its phone number and a mobile phone application, as well as three NGO-operated 24-hour hotlines, for migrant workers who experience problems; the government did not report any trafficking-related cases resulting from the hotlines.