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Australia is a destination country for human trafficking. Australian authorities believe that traffickers are primarily of individual operators or small crime groups that often rely on larger organized crime groups to procure fraudulent documentation.1

Australia is a destination country for victims trafficked who are from East Asia, South East Asia, and Eastern Europe, particularly the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of Korea, and Thailand. There are several reports of migrants, particularly from India, the People’s Republic of China, and South Korea, who voluntarily migrate to work in Australia but are later coerced into exploitative conditions.2 The Australian Crime Commission reports that deceptive practices in contract terms and conditions appeared to be increasing among women in prostitution, while deceptive recruiting practices appeared to be decreasing.3 There are no reliable estimates on the number of trafficking victims in Australia. However, the Australian NGO Project Respect estimates up to 1,000 victims are currently under debt bondage, not including those who have been trafficked but already paid off their debt.4

There are many causes of human trafficking to Australia. Project Respect argues that the demand for trafficked women in Australia is fueled by: 1) a lack of women in Australia prepared to do prostitution; 2) 'customer' demand for women seen as compliant; 3) 'customer' demand for women who they can be violent towards; and 4) racialized ideas that Asian women have certain qualities, for example that they are more compliant and will accept higher levels of violence.5

The Australian Government
The Australian Government was placed in Tier 1 in the 2007 U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report for fully complying with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.

Divisions 270 and 271 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code criminalize human trafficking in Australia. The penalty for sexual servitude is up to 15 years of imprisonment; the penalty for slavery is up to 25 years of imprisonment; the penalty for deceptive recruitment is up to seven years of imprisonment. Australians can also be prosecuted under the Child Sex Tourism Act for traveling abroad to engage in sex with minors under age 16.6

The Australian Government has increased its efforts to prosecute traffickers. Since 2004, the Australian Federal Police has opened 112 investigations and charged 22 people for human trafficking.7 Since October 2006, Australia has had four convictions for sex trafficking, four convictions for child sex tourism, and there are currently six sex trafficking and two labor trafficking before the court.8

The Australian Government provides assistance for trafficking victims, their families, and witnesses in the prosecutions. The government funds two return and reintegration program; one program is for all trafficked women and children, and the second program is solely for Thai victims.9 Trafficking victims who cooperate with authorities in investigations and prosecutions of their traffickers qualify for a temporary visa and a range of social services.10 Those who have held the temporary visa for two years can qualify for a permanent visa. 58 temporary visas have been granted since January 2004, no victim has qualified for a permanent visa yet. The visa program also provides victims with shelters, counseling, food and living allowances. As of January 2007, 35 trafficking victims have received these services.11

The Australian Government supports a public awareness campaign with advertisements in daily newspapers that encourage victims and communities to call the police hotline,12 and widely publicizing prosecutions against traffickers.13

International Cooperation
The Australian Government has anti-human trafficking agreements with Cambodia, Burma, Laos, and Thailand to coordinate investigations and improve cooperation. The government is a co-chair and co-founder of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons, and Related Transnational Crime, which creates regional projects, build awareness, coordinate law enforcement and enhance victim support.14 The government also funds the Asia Regional Cooperation to Prevent People Trafficking project to strengthen the criminal justice process in Thailand, Laos, Burma and Cambodia.15

The U.S. Department of State recommends that the Australian government should devote more attention and resources to addressing allegations of labor trafficking, including in connection with its 457 worker visa program.16 The Australian NGO, the Anti-Slavery Project recommended that Australia do the following: 1) Reform the current visa regime to protect ALL victims of trafficking and slavery. A victim-centered visa regime will prevent the re-trafficking and re-enslavement of victims regardless of their cooperation with authorities; 2) Adequately resource and implement a victim support program that effectively meets the needs of survivors of trafficking and slavery by providing comprehensive and culturally appropriate services. The current victim service program provides a certain level of services to victims of trafficking who are participating in law enforcement processes. However it is our experience that the level of support is variable and can be inadequate to meet the needs of victims leaving them vulnerable to violence, exploitation and endangerment of their ability to cooperate with law enforcement.17

1 2006 US Department of State Human Rights Report
2 2007 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
3 2006 US Department of State Human Rights Report
4 Project Respect: About Trafficking
5 Project Respect: About Trafficking
6 2006 US Department of State Human Rights Report
7 2006 US Department of State Human Rights Report
8 2007 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
9 2007 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
10 2006 US Department of State Human Rights Report
11 2007 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
12 2007 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
13 2006 US Department of State Human Rights Report
14 2007 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
15 2006 US Department of State Human Rights Report
16 2007 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
17 Anti-Slavery Project: Slavery thrives in Australia 200 years after Abolition

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