Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons

BRUNEI: Tier 2

Brunei is a destination and transit 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; some are subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude upon their arrival. Some migrants who transit through Brunei become victims of sex or labor trafficking upon arrival in Malaysia or Indonesia. Some women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking. Some victims are subjected to debt bondage, nonpayment of wages, passport confiscation, physical abuse, or confinement. Although it is illegal for employers in Brunei to withhold wages of domestic workers, some employers withhold wages to recoup labor broker or recruitment fees or to compel the continued service of workers. Though prohibited by law, retention of migrant workers’ travel documents by employers or agencies remains a common practice. Government officials have been investigated for complicity in trafficking offenses, including domestic servitude.

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 continued national campaigns to raise trafficking awareness among government officials, foreign diplomatic missions, and members of the public. Authorities identified two suspected sex trafficking victims, but did not prosecute or convict any traffickers. The government did not investigate any cases of forced labor compelled through debt bondage or threats of deportation, though these practices continued to occur. It fined one employer for failing to pay the salary of a domestic worker—a violation known to contribute to trafficking.


Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and punish both sex and labor traffickers, including complicit government officials; 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; enforce laws prohibiting acts which facilitate trafficking, such as retention or confiscation of migrant workers’ identity documents; do not arrest, deport, or otherwise punish trafficking victims for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; train officials on proactive procedures to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups, with a focus on psychological coercion as a technique used by traffickers; allocate government resources to the fund established by the 2004 law, and allow this to be paid directly to victims as restitution; train judges on Brunei’s anti-trafficking laws; provide anti-trafficking training to Bruneian diplomatic personnel; continue 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 did not prosecute or convict any traffickers for the second consecutive year. 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. In 2014, the government screened for suspected trafficking offenses among 81 cases involving labor complaints or prostitution, but it did not prosecute or convict any traffickers. One case of suspected sex trafficking was investigated and remained pending at the close of the reporting period, and an investigation from the previous reporting period remained ongoing. Officials referred cases involving prostitution, unpaid wages, workers fleeing their place of employment, or physical abuse of workers to the Human Trafficking Unit (HTU) of the Royal Brunei Police Force (RBPF) for investigation of potential trafficking. Some referred cases were prosecuted for other offenses. The government continued to provide anti-trafficking training to police officers in the RBPF. Judicial officials, who did not receive anti-trafficking training, sometimes interpreted Brunei’s laws to require deception at the recruitment stage; authorities did not effectively prosecute and convict suspects under human trafficking laws when victims migrated willingly and were not deceived about the sector of work they would be entering in Brunei. Officials cited the lack of incentives for victims to remain in Brunei and participate in investigations as an impediment to effective law enforcement. There were no investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.


The government made limited efforts to protect victims. HTU officers implemented a standardized procedure of screening questions when apprehending persons in prostitution and others suspected of being trafficking victims. These efforts led to the screening of potential victims in 81 cases and the identification of two sex trafficking victims. Authorities did not identify any victims compelled into sex or labor exploitation through debt bondage or threats of deportation; some officials considered physical abuse or confinement as necessary factors for trafficking, raising concerns about the effectiveness of the government’s identification efforts. Officials apprehended foreign women during brothel raids and detained and deported many for immigration violations; though authorities screened for potential trafficking, misconceptions among some officials may have resulted in some victims remaining unidentified and being subjected to punishment. Similarly, some immigration authorities actively identified and charged violators of immigration laws without reporting identification of or assistance to any trafficking victims among this population. 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 subjected to trafficking, may have been fearful of communicating with law enforcement officers. The government maintained a general-purpose shelter that could be used to assist female trafficking victims, but it only permitted them to leave under special circumstances, and then only when accompanied by shelter staff. One victim received assistance in the shelter and two chose to reside at their respective embassies. A mixed-use shelter was available for male child victims, but no facilities were available for men. There were no identified male victims that required such a facility during the reporting period. The 2004 law established a fund to pay the cost of victims’ repatriation and compensate individuals helping to prevent or suppress trafficking; however, court judgments—of which there have been none—were intended to be the primary source of funding, and the fund lacked resources. During the reporting period, the Ministry of Home Affairs requested a financial allocation from the government’s budget for the fund; negotiations were ongoing at the close of the reporting period. The lack of incentives to remain in Brunei often led foreign victims to decline participation in investigations and elect immediate repatriation. The government reported certain labor trafficking victims who had been legally employed when subjected to trafficking could be eligible on a case-by-case basis to receive employment passes to temporarily work in Brunei while assisting in investigations, though no such passes were issued for a third consecutive year. The government offered no long-term alternatives to removal for victims who may face hardship or retribution upon return to their home countries.


The government continued efforts to prevent trafficking. The government’s interagency committee met regularly and coordinated implementation of a national action plan to combat trafficking, though the plan was not formally approved during the reporting period. The government conducted a national roadshow to raise awareness among the public, and briefings for representatives of foreign diplomatic missions in Brunei on the dangers of trafficking and the process for reporting cases to authorities. Government-influenced media regularly published articles related to trafficking. The government disseminated information telling the public that employers should not withhold workers’ passports and closed three employment agencies for operating without a license, but it did not prosecute any employers or agencies for passport confiscation. The government fined an employer for failing to pay the wages of a domestic worker—an act known to facilitate forced labor—and awarded the worker compensation for unpaid wages. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel. It did not take discernible measures to decrease the demand for forced labor or commercial sex acts. Brunei is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.