BRUNEI: Tier 2 Watch List
July 2, 2021
The Government of Brunei does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. These efforts included standing up an interagency team to investigate all potential trafficking cases, devoting funding towards dedicated male and female trafficking shelters, establishing an interagency public relations task force to raise awareness of trafficking and labor rights, and working with an NGO to produce sample translated employment contracts in the workers’ primary languages. The government created, finalized, and disseminated victim identification and protection standard operating procedures (SOPs) to all government anti-trafficking stakeholders. However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity. For the third consecutive year, the government did not formally identify any cases of trafficking, despite the significant number of migrant workers in Brunei who exhibit multiple trafficking indicators. For the fourth consecutive year, the government did not prosecute or convict any traffickers under its trafficking statute. The government continued to detain, deport, and charge potential victims for crimes without employing a victim-centered approach to discern if traffickers compelled the victims to engage in the unlawful acts. Because the government has devoted sufficient resources to a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute significant efforts to meet the minimum standards, Brunei was granted a waiver per the Trafficking Victims Protection Act form an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3. Therefore Brunei remained on Tier 2 Watch List for the third consecutive year.
The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses but did investigate and prosecute officials for crimes that increased migrant workers’ vulnerability to trafficking. The government continued to prosecute a Department of Immigration officer and two Bruneian labor recruiters under the Prevention of Corruption Act involved in a case stemming from the previous reporting period. The government charged the individuals with committing visa application fraud in an illegal operation to bring Bangladeshi workers to Brunei on false visa applications without existing jobs. In addition, authorities reported four government officials, including a senior DOL official, were under investigation for corruption related to visa fraud for migrant workers at the end of the reporting period. Law enforcement officials cooperated with a foreign government on an ongoing international trafficking case. The HTU continued to train RBPF, immigration, labor, and anti-vice officers on trafficking and victim identification. In March 2021, 29 law enforcement, labor, and immigration officials participated in a trafficking identification and investigation techniques training course facilitated by the prime minister’s office.
Although Bruneian law prohibited employers from withholding wages more than seven days or retaining employees’ passports, foreign embassies continued to report their citizens commonly experienced both practices. The government continued its public awareness campaign with printed materials in English and Malay. A government-owned media outlet published five articles on trafficking and labor rights to spread awareness and educate the public on the rights of foreign workers. DOL provided workers with business cards containing the department’s hotline for reporting labor violations and continued its awareness roadshow to educate the public on labor laws, including on passport retention. However, when labor officials inspected worksites, they only required migrant workers to show a copy of their passport and visa; officials fined 462 employers for not renewing expired workers’ passports held by the employer but did not report taking administrative or legal action against employers for passport retention during the reporting period. Law enforcement officials conducted an inspection of a refinery worksite dormitory and found workers living in unsafe accommodations and without proper employment documents. Authorities issued a stop-work order to the employer and opened an investigation into the undocumented foreign workers; the investigation remained open at the end of the reporting period, allowing the workers to stay in the country with an agreement to conduct monthly check-ins with immigration authorities until all employment documentation was resolved. After two weeks, the refinery resumed operations, after it closed the unsafe living facility and met with the government to review workplace safety and foreign worker regulations. Authorities also reported fining five employers for labor rights violations as a result from worksite inspections. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.