Vietnamese girls trafficked to Cambodia as sex workers. CNS file photo
PLENTONG, JOHOR – Human trafficking was the main focus of the annual meeting of the Conference of Religious Major Superiors (CRMS) held at Majodi Centre, Johor.
The conference represents all the Religious congregations in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.
Guest speaker Theresa Symons, executive director of the Good Shepherd Services in Malaysia, gave a presentation on this “modern-day slavery” during the July 4-6 meeting.
She told the conference that often the web of deception spans many countries and involves many parties along the way.
“The chain starts with the recruiting agents who would promise a poor family that they have a job for their daughter in another receiving rich country [such as] Malaysia, Singapore or Brunei.”
In one case, Ms Symons noted that the victim left the family and went to the airport where she was instructed to go to a particular immigration lane where the colluding official was on duty.
Ms Symons further said the victim was admitted into the receiving country with no official documentation. She then became trapped with no recourse to justice and rights. She was sold to other agents to be exploited as a sex worker with no pay.
Ms Symons noted that there is an extensive and pervasive network of agents who use all sorts of strategies to recruit unwary victims into prostitution and other vices.
During the talk, one participant also remarked that she was quite ignorant of the problem.
During a joint meeting between the CRMS and the bishops’ conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, both conferences agreed to give top priority in addressing human trafficking as part of the social mission of the Church.
Jesuit Fr Colin Tan, a member of the CRMS, said there are plans to print educational leaflets which will be distributed to all the churches in the region in the coming months.
By Vincent D’Silva