Malaysian authorities trained in victim-centered response to human trafficking


MALAYSIA – 180 law enforcement officers and deputy public prosecutors took part in the “Victim-Centered Response to Trafficking-in-Persons (TIP)” trainings across Malaysia throughout the month of February 2023.

The training, which was co-organised by IJM, and Malaysia and Global Shepherds Berhad (GSB) with the support of Malaysia’s National Strategic Office of the Council for Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants (NSO-MAPO), aimed to help the authorities understand the importance of a victim-centered responses in trafficking-in-persons cases and equip them with the skills to provide the protection in a victim-centered manner. 

A total of seven training sessions took place in Kuala Lumpur, Melaka, Kelantan, Penang, Johor, Sarawak and Sabah. Training participants comprised law enforcement officers from the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM), Royal Malaysia Customs, Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), Immigration Department (JIM), and the Department of Labour, as well as deputy public prosecutors from the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

Participants taking part in a group activity at a session in Kelantan.

Victim-centered response: key to effective law enforcement and prosecution

In 2021, Malaysia was downgraded from Tier 2, returning to Tier 3 for the first time since 2014 U.S. government’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report. Despite the government taking measures to address trafficking – Malaysia remained in Tier 3 in 2022 – with the report stating that the country did not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and was not making significant efforts to do so. Insufficient identification of victims and inconsistent use of victim identification procedures were among the challenges highlighted in the 2022 TIP report.

“Human trafficking is a horrific crime that victimises and exploits those who live in poverty, therefore, any effort to fight it should be uncompromising,” said Ji Lien Ooi, Field Office Director of IJM Malaysia in her opening remarks during the first training session in Kuala Lumpur.

Ms. Ooi also highlighted that research in best practices in responses to TIP cases have emphasised the importance of victim-centered and trauma-informed approaches not only in protection efforts, but also in enforcement and prosecution.

Based on the testimonies by enforcement and prosecution in other countries where IJM is working collaboratively to support government efforts, Ms. Ooi shared,

“The key to successful prosecution is cooperation from reliable victim witnesses, and the key to victim cooperation is to provide them with adequate support, responses, and protection which are victim-centered and trauma-informed.”

Equipping law enforcement officers to better handle trafficking cases

During the two-day sessions, participants were given an overview of the TIP situation in the country and the national legal framework, particularly Malaysia’s Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants (ATIPSOM) Act.

Participants also received trainings in victim identification, investigation techniques, trafficker profiling, trauma-informed approaches in handling TIP cases, and victim-centered prosecution. Additionally, they also had the opportunity to apply their learnings through group activities.

“We know that the victims are vulnerable. Our enforcement officers are trained to arrest, not to rescue,” said an honorary speaker from NSO MAPO. “So I hope this training will give them the education and awareness to have a more humanised approach.”

Feedback from the participants were positive, with suggestions for such trainings to be extended to court judges and magistrates.

IJM Malaysia continues to work collaboratively with the Malaysian Government, law enforcement authorities and non-governmental stakeholders in support of national efforts against trafficking in persons and forced labour in the country and for the protection of those most vulnerable to these crimes.