Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 April 2014, 11:13 GMT

Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - Australia

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Publication Date 4 June 2008
Cite as United States Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - Australia, 4 June 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/484f9a002d.html [accessed 23 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

AUSTRALIA (Tier 1)

Australia is a destination country for women from Southeast Asia, South Korea, Taiwan, and the People's Republic of China (P.R.C.) trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Prostitution is legal except for in the states of Western Australia and South Australia. Many trafficking victims were women who traveled to Australia voluntarily to work in both legal and illegal brothels, but were subject to conditions of debt bondage or involuntary servitude. There were reports of several men and women from India, the P.R.C., South Korea, the Philippines, and Ireland migrating to Australia temporarily for work, but subsequently subjected to conditions of forced labor, including fraudulent recruitment, confiscation of travel documents, confinement, and debt bondage.

The Government of Australia fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. After holding several hearings, Australia's parliament issued 25 recommendations to address allegations that some employers abused the 457 Temporary Worker Visa Program to subject migrant workers to conditions of forced labor and debt bondage. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) subsequently instituted a series of reforms to improve monitoring of this migrant worker visa program, resulting in a greater number of trafficking cases found in the program. There were no visible measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts in the legalized commercial sex industry in Australia. The government provides substantial funding to support anti-trafficking efforts throughout the Southeast Asia region, including law enforcement training, victim assistance programs, and prevention activities.

Recommendations for Australia: Continue to conduct systematic efforts to proactively identify trafficking victims in the legalized sex trade; continue to criminally prosecute exploitative employers for debt bondage and involuntary servitude of migrant workers, and ensure that those convicted receive sufficient criminal punishments; and implement the Parliamentary recommendations on the 457 Temporary Worker Visa Program.

Prosecution

The Government of Australia continued to demonstrate efforts to address trafficking in persons through law enforcement means. Australia prohibits sex and labor trafficking and trafficking-related offenses in Divisions 270 and 271 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code, which prescribe penalties that are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other grave crimes. In August 2007, the Migration Amendment (Employer Sanctions) Act went into force, prescribing penalties of two to five years' imprisonment for persons convicted of exploiting others for forced labor, sexual servitude, or slavery in Australia. During the reporting period, the Transnational Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking Teams within the Australian Federal Police (AFP) conducted 27 investigations, of which approximately 80 percent were related to sex trafficking. As of February 2008, there were seven trafficking-related cases before the courts involving 15 defendants, with three of the seven cases in the appeal phase. During the reporting period, there were four convictions for trafficking; one defendant was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment.

In March 2008, a joint operation between the AFP and DIAC broke up a syndicate in Sydney that allegedly trafficked South Korean women to a legal brothel and was earning more than $2.3 million a year. Police allege the syndicate recruited Korean women through deception about the conditions under which they would be employed, organized their entry into Australia under false pretenses, confiscated their travel documents, and forced them to work up to 20 hours a day in a legal Sydney brothel owned by the syndicate. In January 2008, police uncovered an alleged labor trafficking situation in which Indian nationals who arrived in Australia on tourist visas were sent to a tomato farm in Jerilderie, New South Wales where they were held in virtual confinement and forced labor. There are eight administrative and criminal cases pending in this case. While some companies and persons were fined by Australian courts for violations that may have constituted forced labor offenses, there were no criminal penalties handed down to employers involved in forced labor. During 2007, 123 employers have been temporarily barred from employing migrant laborers under the 457 visa scheme and an additional 273 received warnings for failing to pay laborers a minimum salary. DIAC, Unions, and the Workplace Ombudsman continue to discover instances in which migrant workers are in situations of debt bondage, and other conditions leading to labor trafficking. There were no reports of government or law enforcement involvement in trafficking. There were no cases of sexual exploitation involving Australian troops or peacekeeping officers deployed abroad. Australia continued to play a prominent leadership role in several regional projects aimed at building awareness of trafficking, increasing law enforcement capacity, and enhancing victim support. In 2007, the Australian government announced a $27 million anti-trafficking funding package that will support specialist investigative teams within the AFP to proactively investigate trafficking; a National Policing Strategy to Combat Trafficking in Women for Sexual Servitude; new visa arrangements to support victims; anti-trafficking law enforcement liaison officers in Thailand, China, and the Philippines; research into regional trafficking activities by the Australian Institute of Criminology; and additional training on prosecutions.

Protection

The Government of Australia continued to provide comprehensive assistance for victims of trafficking and their family members, if they were willing to aid in criminal prosecutions. The government encourages victims and witnesses to participate in the investigation of trafficking, but directly links continued assistance to victims' role in a viable prosecution. A total of 89 victims of labor and sex trafficking received assistance since 2004 through the Office of Women's "Support for Victims of People Trafficking Program." Other victims who do not qualify for this program may be eligible for a protection visa as a refugee, but the government does not generally assist with such applications. Individuals granted status under this visa regime are entitled to a package of benefits, including shelter, counseling, food and a living allowance. Australia funds two return and reintegration activities in the region. The first is for return and reintegration of trafficked women and children, and the second solely supports Thai victims. Victims are not inappropriately incarcerated, fined, or penalized for unlawful acts as a direct result of being trafficked.

Prevention

The Government of Australia demonstrated efforts to prevent trafficking in persons during the year. The Australian Agency for International Development (AUSAID) introduced a comprehensive child protection policy, covering all aspects of the agency's operations and applying both to AUSAID staff and all contractors and non-governmental organizations funded by the agency. The government also implemented a Communication Awareness Strategy to increase awareness about trafficking within the sex industry. The Australian government, however, did not implement public awareness campaigns to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts in the legalized commercial sex industry in Australia. The government continued to support a public awareness campaign with advertisements in daily and suburban newspapers encouraging victims and concerned members of the community to call the police hotline. Australian soldiers and AFP Officers deployed abroad are subject to the extraterritorial application of Australia's trafficking and child exploitation laws. The government provides extensive training, including discussion of human rights, sexual exploitation and trafficking in persons, to its troops being deployed abroad as international peacekeepers.

Australia's extra-territorial law on child sex tourism provides penalties of up to 17 years' imprisonment for Australians convicted of sexually exploiting children under the age 16 while outside of Australia. Thirty prosecutions since the introduction of Australia's child sex tourism laws have led to 19 convictions. Australian citizens were returned to Australia to face prosecution for sexually exploiting children in other countries under Australia's extraterritorial child sex tourism law. The Australian Government offers travelers a travel bulletin warning against child sex tourism through a government website. The Australian Government also produces a brochure "Travel Smart: Hints for Australian Travelers," that includes information on child sex crimes, existing legislation, and details on how to report a possible violation of Australia's child sex tourism laws to the AFP. Travel Smart is distributed with every passport renewal by the Australian Passports Office; during the reporting period 855,055 were distributed.

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