AUSTRALIA: Tier 1
Australia is primarily a destination country for women and girls subjected to sex trafficking and, increasingly, for women and men subjected to forced labor. Child sex trafficking occurs involving a small number of Australian citizens, primarily teenage girls, as well as foreign victims exploited within the country. Some women from Asia and—to a lesser extent—Eastern Europe and Africa migrate to Australia to work legally or illegally in a number of sectors, including the sex trade. Subsequent to their arrival, some of these women are coerced into prostitution. Some foreign women—and sometimes girls—are held in captivity, subjected to physical and sexual violence and intimidation, manipulated through illegal drugs, and obliged to pay off unexpected or inflated debts to traffickers. Some victims of sex trafficking and some women who migrate to Australia for arranged marriages are subjected to domestic servitude. Unscrupulous employers and labor agencies subject some men and women from Asia and several Pacific Islands, recruited to work temporarily in Australia, to forced labor in agriculture, construction, hospitality, and domestic servitude. Traffickers often operate independently or are part of small organized crime networks that frequently involve family and business connections between Australians and overseas contacts. Many identified victims are foreign citizens on student visas who pay significant placement and academic fees. Unscrupulous employers coerce students to work in excess of the terms of their visas, making them vulnerable to trafficking due to fears of deportation for immigration violations. Some foreign diplomats allegedly subject domestic workers to forced labor in Australia.
The Government of Australia fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government prosecuted more suspected traffickers than in the previous reporting period, though it failed to convict any offenders. The government increased the number of victims identified and referred to the government-funded support program. It continued awareness efforts to combat child sex tourism, but unlike in 2013, it did not prosecute or convict any Australian nationals for such crimes. The government also launched a five-year national action plan to combat human trafficking.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR AUSTRALIA:
Vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and stringently sentence sex and labor traffickers; continue to increase efforts to train police and other front-line officers to recognize indicators of trafficking and respond to suspected cases of both sex and labor trafficking; strengthen efforts to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable groups, such as undocumented migrants or workers filing civil grievances; require social service providers to be present when conducting initial screening interviews with victims; develop methods to expedite visas for victims; sustain and increase funding to NGOs for robust victim protection services; consider establishing a national compensation scheme for trafficking victims; implement the national action plan to combat trafficking, launched in December 2014; continue to implement or fund awareness campaigns, particularly among rural communities and migrant populations; increase efforts to prosecute and convict Australian child sex tourists; and develop a targeted campaign to raise awareness among clients of Australia’s legal sex trade about the links between prostitution and trafficking.
The government made modest anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Australia prohibits sex and labor trafficking and trafficking-related offenses through divisions 270 and 271 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code, which prescribe maximum penalties of 12 to 25 years’ imprisonment and fines up to197,000 Australian dollars ($152,000). These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. The criminal code, through the 2013 Crimes Legislation Amendment, prohibits forced labor and prescribes penalties of nine years’ imprisonment, and the Migration Act of 2007 prohibits exploitation of migrant workers through forced labor, sexual servitude, or slavery and prescribes penalties of up to five years’ imprisonment and various fines; these are sufficiently stringent penalties and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes. State and territorial laws criminalize child prostitution.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) investigated 87 alleged trafficking cases, an increase from 46 the previous year. The government prosecuted nine defendants in 2014, compared with six prosecuted in 2013; it did not report how many, if any, involved labor trafficking. It did not convict any traffickers in 2014, compared with one sex trafficker convicted in 2013. Judicial officials dismissed trials for three alleged traffickers and dropped a trafficking charge against one defendant for undisclosed reasons. The AFP maintained its use of specialized teams to investigate suspected trafficking offenses, and the majority of labor trafficking cases continued to be addressed through civil mechanisms. The government funded and facilitated training on trafficking investigations, legislation, and victim support for 25 police and immigration officers. In October 2014, the AFP and regional police officers began implementing a training module to strengthen front-line officials’ capacity to identify and investigate trafficking offenses. The government did not investigate, prosecute, or convict any government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.
The government sustained efforts to protect trafficking victims. Authorities identified 33 potential victims (including 14 for sexual exploitation, eight for forced labor, and 11 where the form of exploitation was unclear), an increase from 21 in 2013, and referred them to the government-funded support program. Only the AFP could identify and refer victims to the government’s support program; NGOs provided services for additional victims who were either not recognized by the AFP or who chose not to communicate with law enforcement. Potential victims could typically access accommodation, living expenses, legal advice, health services, and counseling provided by the government. The government continued to provide approximately one million Australian dollars ($775,000) annually to fund its victim support program. In 2014, one repatriated Australian trafficking victim was provided unspecified support through this program. There were no government-run shelters for trafficking victims and few trafficking-specific shelters in the country. In 2014, the government granted 14 Permanent Witness Protection (Trafficking) visas to victims and their immediate family members, which required victims to assist with an investigation or prosecution of a trafficking offense. Local organizations expressed concern that the lengthy delays in processing this type of visa could be a disincentive for victims to pursue the benefit. Victims identified by authorities were not detained, fined, or penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking.
The government’s efforts to identify and refer victims of forced labor were limited. Authorities identified the majority of victims through immigration compliance actions, though some victims may have not self-identified out of a fear of detainment and deportation. The government did not ensure social service professionals were present during initial screening interviews, although procedures were in place for law enforcement officers to bring them in at their discretion. Victims could be eligible for compensation through general crime victim schemes at the state and territorial level, but benefits varied by region and could only be granted on the basis of trafficking-related crimes, as trafficking is not a crime in state and territorial law. NGOs reported concerns of victims not always adequately informed about legal avenues available to those who wish to remain in Australia to pursue compensation or civil remedies.
The government sustained efforts to prevent trafficking. It launched a five-year national action plan to combat trafficking in December 2014, but did not implement it during the reporting period. The government continued to fund the Australian Institute of Criminology to conduct research on human trafficking in the country. The Fair Work Ombudsman conducted awareness campaigns on migrant workers’ rights and pursued civil cases through the courts for workplace violations, such as underpayment of wages; however, none of the cases it investigated were referred to the AFP or immigration officials for criminal investigation of potential forced labor. During the reporting year, the AFP facilitated training on all forms of trafficking for various NGOs and delivered a trafficking investigation workshop to officials from 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region. The government continued to distribute materials to passport applicants outlining the application of Australian child sex laws to Australians overseas. However, unlike in 2013, the government did not prosecute or convict any Australians for child sex trafficking offenses. The government did not take significant steps to reduce the demand for forced labor or commercial sex acts, but continued to demonstrate efforts to raise awareness of and prevent trafficking within its legal sex trade. It provided anti-trafficking training and guidance for its diplomatic personnel prior to being posted abroad.