U.S. Department of State 2004 Trafficking in Persons Report - Australia
Australia (Tier 1)
Australia is a destination country for Chinese and Southeast Asian women trafficked for prostitution. Many of these women travel to Australia voluntarily to work in both legal and illegal brothels but are deceived for coerced into debt bondage or sexual servitude.
The Government of Australia fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Australia appears on this Report for the first time as a result of new information indicating the scale of the trafficking problem in Australia. Its Commonwealth Action Plan to Eradicate Trafficking in Persons, launched in October 2003, provides substantial financial and personnel resources to combat the problem both domestically and internationally. The passage of a new law, creation of a dedicated police anti-trafficking unit, and intensified efforts by immigration authorities to detect and assist trafficking victims were among the many positive steps taken by the Australian Government in 2003.
The Government prosecutes trafficking offenses under various statutes including provisions in the Commonwealth Criminal Code, the Federal Crime Act, and the Migration Act. Between June 1, 2003 and March 1, 2004, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) received 36 referrals from government and non-government sources. 30 cases are being investigated, two were rejected and four are being evaluated. Ten suspected traffickers have been charged with Commonwealth people trafficking offenses; the ten are being prosecuted in three cases. The Commonwealth Action Plan in October 2003 created a 23-member task force, the Transnational Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking Team located in the AFP. This team is specifically dedicated to investigating cases throughout the country. The AFP uses electronic surveillance, undercover operations, plea-bargaining and other enforcement techniques to investigate traffickers. Reflecting the government's heightened determination to fight sex trafficking a dozen cases have been filed against traffickers since the beginning of 2004.
Under Australian law it is an offense for Australian citizens and residents to travel abroad to engage in sex with minors less than 16 years of age. Since its inception in 1994, 12 pedophiles have been convicted under this law, which carries a maximum sentence of 17 years. Other penalties for trafficking offenses are as high as 20 to 25 years.
The government took significant steps in 2003 to improve efforts by police and immigration authorities to distinguish trafficking victims from illegal migrants and provide assistance to those victims, including counseling and temporary shelter. In the past, some trafficking victims may have been unintentionally deported as illegal immigrants. Currently, the Australian Government is making determined efforts to identify and elicit the cooperation of trafficking victims in providing criminal evidence for the prosecution of traffickers. The Australian Government in late 2003 streamlined its police investigation and immigration procedures and identified a number of trafficking victims willing to cooperate with authorities to investigate or prosecute traffickers, thereby qualifying them to receive "bridging visas" or "criminal justice stay visas." Cooperative victims are eligible for social security benefits, housing, medical checkups and treatment, legal assistance, social support and vocational training.
The government of Australia in 2003 expanded efforts to prevent new incidents of trafficking, largely through closer coordination with neighboring countries to prevent and investigate trafficking. During the last year, the government signed anti-trafficking agreements with Cambodia, Burma, Laos, and Thailand to improve international cooperation and police investigations of trafficking syndicates. The Australian government also funds awareness campaigns in source countries, in addition to programs designed to sensitize the tourism industry to the child sex tourism problem, and has worked to raise the profile of trafficking issues in the region through its leadership role in the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons, and Related Transnational Crime. Within Australia, the government has started an awareness campaign targeting the sex industry and the community at large; it also widely publicizes criminal cases against traffickers. The Government in 2003 intensified an awareness campaign to deter child sex tourism, though the distribution of materials to Australians traveling overseas. Australia also seeks the cooperation of foreign governments in the local prosecution of Australian pedophiles or their extradition or deportation to Australia so they can be tried for the extra-territorial offense of sexual exploitation of a minor.