“Freedom is the birthright of every human being.”
Human trafficking is an apparent problem in Australia and has been addressed by the government. According to the Human Trafficking section of the Australian Federal Police website, “Human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices such as servitude, forced labour and forced marriage are complex crimes and a major violation of human rights.”
Around the world men, women and children are trafficked for a wide range of exploitative purposes, such as:
- Forced labour
- Debt Bondage
- Forced marriage
- Organ harvesting
Australia is a primary destination country for many people that are trafficked from Asia. Countries include Thailand, Korea, the Philippines and Malaysia. Australia’s slavery, slavery-like and human trafficking offenses are described and laid out in Division 270 and 271 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act of 1995.
As with many crimes, an accurate and exact figure for the number of persons that are trafficked into Australia is virtually impossible to ascertain. There are estimates of number of victims but they show a huge discrepancy of the amount that are officially detected. This shows how many potential cases that are not being addressed and thus being a large problem for Australian government. The discrepancy between the amount of recording trafficking and the estimated number is due to high levels of under-reporting. Trafficked persons are often scared and too terrified to contact authorities because they are fearful of the possible consequences for themselves and their families if they were to be detected.
Unfortunately, trafficking matters may not be identified as trafficking matter but instead be charged with a range of other offenses. Other offenses include kidnap/abduction, assault and domestic violence but not with trafficking. This has raised concerns for the validity, accuracy and reliability of the methodologies used to calculate reported estimates.
The Australian Institute of Criminology provided aggregate statistics from the Autralian Government agencies between January 2004 and June 2011. They concluded that 305 investigations and assessments of trafficking-related offenses were conducted by the AFP’s Transnational Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking Teams. 184 victims of trafficking had been provided with assistance through the government funded Office for Women’s Support for Trafficked Persons (STP) Program. 13 people have been convicted for people trafficking-related offenses (9 of the 13 defendants were convicted of slavery offenses, 3 of sexual servitude and 1 of people trafficking).
Australia works collaboratively with other countries to combat human trafficking. For example, Australia and Indonesia co-chair the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime. Australia’s aid program also supports a number of aid projects in the Asia region, including the Australia-Asia Program to Combat Trafficking in Persons.
Australia’s National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking and Slavery 2015–19 provides the strategic framework for Australia’s response to human trafficking and slavery. The plan was developed with government and non-government partners, and was launched by the Minister for Justice, the Hon Michael Keenan MP, in December 2014.
“Three out of every 1,000 persons worldwide are in forced labour at any given point in time”
According to the plan, “Australia is committed to a future where no one is subjected to human trafficking or slavery, and the human rights of all people are valued equally.” They acknowledge that the international community has recognized the fundamental right of all people to be free regardless of race, age, disability, religion, sex, sexuality or gender. The plan says how human trafficking and slavery are serious crimes that do not exhibit the fundamentals of freedom and how it is the most grave of human rights violations. The plan is a strategic framework for Australia’s response to human trafficking and slavery over the years 2015 to 2019. The plan is the successor to the Australian Government’s 2004 Action Plan to Eradicate Trafficking in Persons, and further extends that plan. The plan of the goal is to expand and build on the successes of that plan.
Human trafficking is mentioned a couple times in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Human trafficking is first mentioned in the 27th article of the introduction of the goals stating, “We will eradicate forced labour and human trafficking and end child labour in all its forms.”
In Goal 5, Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, human trafficking is addressed again in the second statement. “Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.”
There are multiple ways to combat human trafficking but the most important thing for everyone to do to help is to know the signs of human trafficking so it can be identified. The U.S. Department of State and the Australian Federal Police have listed indicators of human trafficking on their respective websites. Some signs include:
- the person appears to be servicing a large debt to their employer or a third party;
- the person does not possess their passport or travel/identity documents, which are with their employer or a third party, and the person is unable to access these documents when they wish to do so
- the person does not have a labour or employment contract/agreement , or they do not understand the terms or conditions of their employment;
- the person is unable to terminate their employment at any time;
- the person is subject to different or less favourable working conditions than other employees because he/she comes from overseas;
- the person never or rarely leave their accommodation for non-work reasons;
- the person is living at the place of work or another place owned or controlled by their employer;
- the person has little or no money or no access to their earnings;
- the person has physical injuries which may have resulted for assault, harsh treatment or unsafe work practices;
- the person is always in the presence of their employer, who does not want or allow the worker to socialise with others;
- the person works excessively long hours and have few, if any, days off
- the person regularly between different workplaces, including interstate.
Once a victim of human trafficking is identified or suspected, it must be reported immediately. Human trafficking is a global problem and everyone can help if they have proper awareness and knowledge of the topic.