Brunei is a destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Men and women from countries in Asia such as Indonesia, Bangladesh, China, the Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia migrate to Brunei primarily for domestic work, or on social visit passes or tourist visas, and are sometimes subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude upon their arrival. Some women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking. Some victims are subjected to debt bondage, nonpayment of wages, passport confiscation, physical abuse, and confinement. Although it is illegal for employers in Brunei to withhold wages of domestic workers for more than 10 days, some employers are known to withhold wages in order to recoup labor broker or recruitment fees or as a tool to compel the continued service of workers. Retention of migrant workers’ travel documents by employers or agents is a common and generally accepted practice.
The Government of Brunei does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government’s Heads of Specialist Trafficking Unit (HSU) completed and began implementation of a national action plan to combat trafficking, and Brunei authorities convened a meeting with representatives from foreign diplomatic missions to raise awareness of trafficking and the processes for reporting suspected cases. Debt bondage and passport confiscation continued to occur. During the reporting period, the government conducted interviews in 136 cases of labor complaints to screen for suspected trafficking offenses, but it did not prosecute or convict any trafficking offenders; one case remained under investigation at the close of the reporting period. The government did not report identifying any trafficking victims or providing any suspected victims protective services.
Recommendations for Brunei:
Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and punish offenders of both sex and labor trafficking; train officials on proactive procedures to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups, such as migrant workers and individuals in prostitution, and implement them widely; include social workers when screening potential victims for indicators of trafficking; ensure all suspected victims receive access and referrals to protective services; increase protective services to provide incentives for victims to participate in investigations and prosecutions, including by allowing adult victims in government shelters to come and go freely and by issuing work permits to all victims; prosecute employers and recruitment agencies who unlawfully confiscate workers’ passports or use other unlawful practices to compel forced labor; ensure that victims of trafficking are not arrested, deported, or otherwise punished for crimes committed as a direct result of being trafficked; allocate government resources to the fund established by the 2004 law, and allow this to be paid directly to victims as restitution; provide long-term alternatives to removal to countries where foreign victims may face hardship or retribution; provide training to diplomats on the prevention of trafficking and methods to identify and protect victims prior to their departure for overseas posts; continue to support comprehensive and visible anti-trafficking awareness campaigns directed at employers of foreign workers and clients of the sex trade; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
The government reported fewer prosecutions and convictions than in the previous reporting period. Brunei prohibits both sex and labor trafficking through its Trafficking and Smuggling Persons Order of 2004, which prescribes punishments of up to 30 years’ imprisonment. These punishments are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. The penal code includes a prohibition on traveling outside the country for commercial sex with children, prescribing a punishment of up to 10 years’ imprisonment. During the reporting period, the government conducted interviews in 136 cases of labor complaints to screen for suspected trafficking offenses, but it did not prosecute or convict any trafficking offenders; one case remained under investigation at the close of the reporting period. This represents a decrease from the three prosecutions and one conviction obtained during the previous reporting period. One case pending from the previous reporting period was dismissed, and two were prosecuted under other statutes. Cases involving prostitution, unpaid wages, workers fleeing their place of employment, or physical abuse of workers were systematically referred to the Human Trafficking Unit (HTU) of the Royal Brunei Police Force (RBPF) for investigation for potential trafficking. During the reporting period, a previously reported potential trafficking case involving a police officer ended in acquittal after trial. The government provided some anti- trafficking training to officers in the RBPF.
The Government of Brunei did not identify any trafficking victims or provide protective services to any suspected victims. HTU officers implemented a standardized procedure of asking screening questions when apprehending persons in prostitution and others suspected of being trafficking victims. These efforts led to the screening of 136 suspected victims, but the government did not identify any as trafficking victims. Brunei officials did not generally identify cases as trafficking when victims had willingly migrated, raising concerns about the effectiveness of the government’s identification efforts. Foreign women apprehended during brothel raids were detained and deported for immigration violations; inadequacies in the government’s efforts to screen these individuals may have resulted in some unidentified trafficking victims being punished. Some trafficking victims, particularly those whose documents had been confiscated or those who had been forced to violate other laws in the course of being trafficked, may have been fearful of communicating with law enforcement officers, limiting the effectiveness of screening efforts. The government maintained three general-purpose facilities that could be used to assist female trafficking victims, though no victims were referred to the facilities during the year. A mixed-use shelter was available for male victims. A separate facility, available to child victims, sheltered one child rescued from prostitution during the year, though the government did not identify her as a trafficking victim. Victims residing in these facilities were not permitted to leave except under special circumstances, and accompanied by the police.
Brunei’s 2004 law established a fund to pay the cost of victims’ repatriation and to award individuals helping to prevent or suppress trafficking; however, it is funded primarily by court settlements—of which there have been none—and therefore remained unfunded. Victims were encouraged to participate in investigations, but many victims declined participation and elected immediate repatriation; the government could make greater efforts to provide incentives for victims to remain in Brunei and participate in legal cases. The government reported that certain labor trafficking victims would be eligible on a case-by-case basis to receive employment passes to temporarily work in Brunei while assisting in investigations, though none received this benefit during the year. There were no trafficking- specific programs offering long-term alternatives to removal to countries where victims may face hardship or retribution.
The Brunei government continued its efforts to prevent trafficking during the reporting period. The Labor Department continued some efforts to enforce licensing requirements for all labor recruitment agencies, with three agencies under investigation for related violations. The government’s Heads of Specialist Trafficking Unit within the RBPF continued to meet regularly to coordinate the country’s anti-trafficking policy; it completed and began implementation of a national action plan to combat trafficking, though the plan was not formally approved by the legislature during the reporting period. In January 2014, the government conducted a briefing for representatives of foreign diplomatic missions in Brunei, to raise awareness of the dangers of trafficking and the process for reporting cases to authorities. The HTU conducted awareness raising events at local police stations and hosted talks with other agencies to spread awareness of its role in combating human trafficking, and the government-influenced press regularly published articles relating to trafficking. The government did not take discernible measures to decrease the demand for forced labor or commercial sex acts during the year. Brunei is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.