AUSTRALIA: Tier 1
Australia is primarily a destination country for women and girls subjected to sex trafficking and for women and men subjected to forced labor. A small number of children, primarily teenage Australian and foreign girls, are subjected to sex trafficking 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. After their arrival, some of these women are coerced to enter or remain in prostitution. Some foreign women—and sometimes girls—are held in captivity, subjected to physical and sexual violence and intimidation, manipulated through illegal drugs, obliged to pay off unexpected or inflated debts to traffickers, or otherwise deceived about working arrangements. 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 service. Traffickers often operate independently or are part of small organized crime networks that frequently involve family and business connections between Australians and overseas contacts. Some 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 meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government prosecuted a modest number of suspected traffickers, although it did not obtain any convictions under trafficking provisions for a second year. The government increased the number of victims it identified and referred to the government-funded support program, and it made changes to its visa policies intended to better address the needs of foreign trafficking victims. It prosecuted two and convicted one Australian child sex tourist for exploitation of children abroad. The government began implementation of a new five-year national action plan to combat human trafficking.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR AUSTRALIA:
Vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, with increased focus on labor trafficking, and convict and stringently sentence sex and labor traffickers; 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; increase training for prosecutors and judges on Australian trafficking laws; 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 potential victims and ensure such interviews are conducted in a safe and neutral location; continue efforts 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; 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 the legal commercial sex industry 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 of up to 197,000 Australian dollars ($144,000). These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. A February 2015 amendment to the criminal code grants universal jurisdiction to slavery offenses under division 270. The criminal code, through the 2013 Crimes Legislation Amendment, also 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 the prostitution of children.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) investigated 61 cases of alleged trafficking and related offenses, a decrease from 87 cases investigated in 2014; nearly half of these cases related to suspected forced marriage offenses and it is unknown how many of these involved sex or labor trafficking. The government initiated prosecutions of four defendants, including three for suspected labor trafficking offenses, and one for suspected sex trafficking, and continued prosecution of two defendants (one for suspected sex trafficking and one for forced labor) begun in previous years; this is a decrease from nine defendants prosecuted in 2014.
For the second year, the government did not obtain any convictions under the trafficking provisions in the criminal code: it convicted six suspected traffickers under other laws which carry lesser penalties, prosecutors dropped trafficking charges against three suspects, and courts acquitted two individuals on trafficking charges.
One suspect was found not guilty on all trafficking charges but sentenced to 16 months’ imprisonment for violations of the migration act; in a separate case, a defendant was found not guilty on all trafficking charges and charged a fine for violation of the Foreign Passports Act. Four individuals involved in the deceptive recruitment and debt bondage of foreign women in sex trafficking were convicted and sentenced to prison terms ranging from three years and two months’ imprisonment to four years’ imprisonment on charges of dealing in proceeds of crime. The government dropped all charges against three individuals suspected of labor trafficking offenses. AFP maintained its use of specialized teams to investigate suspected trafficking offenses, although the majority of labor trafficking cases continued to be addressed through civil mechanisms. The government funded and facilitated training on trafficking investigations, legal provisions, and victim support for 22 police and immigration officers. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.
The government sustained efforts to protect trafficking victims. Authorities identified 35 potential victims (including four for sex trafficking, 17 for forced labor, and 14 for which the form of exploitation was unclear), compared with 33 in 2014, and referred them to the government-funded support program. Only AFP has the legal authority to refer victims to the government’s support program; NGOs provided services for additional victims who were either not formally recognized by AFP or who chose not to communicate with law enforcement. Potential victims could typically access accommodation, living expenses, legal advice, health services, vocational training, and counseling provided by the government. In 2015, the government amended policies to expand access to English language training for foreign victims. The government continued to provide approximately one million Australian dollars ($731,000) annually to fund its victim support program. In 2015, the government repatriated one Australian trafficking victim from abroad and provided unspecified support through this program. There were no government-run shelters for trafficking victims and one known trafficking-specific shelter run by an NGO in the country. In 2015, the government made reforms to its visa policies intended to better address the needs of foreign trafficking victims. It granted referred stay (permanent) visas, which required victims to assist with an investigation or prosecution of a trafficking offense, to four victims and their immediate family members. 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 to services were limited; authorities did not routinely screen for indicators of labor trafficking among vulnerable groups. Authorities identified the majority of victims through immigration compliance actions, which may have made some victims reluctant to communicate with law enforcement officers 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. In March 2015, a court ordered a convicted trafficker to pay 186,000 Australian dollars ($134,000) in back wages and interest to the Indian national he subjected to forced labor. In May 2015, the Supreme Court of Victoria enforced a United States court order for $3.3 million in damages against a former U.S. diplomat living in Australia, related to trafficking offenses committed against a domestic worker. The former domestic worker advised the court that she had received in full a settlement sum. 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 began implementation of its five-year national action plan to combat trafficking, launched in the previous year, and submitted an annual report to Parliament detailing its work. 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 AFP or immigration officials for criminal investigation of potential forced labor. The government funded anti-trafficking initiatives and delivered trainings in the Asia-Pacific region. The government continued to distribute materials to passport applicants outlining the application of Australian child sexual exploitation and child sex tourism laws to Australians overseas, and in 2015 it prosecuted two and convicted one Australian for committing child sex tourism crimes in other countries. 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 industry. It provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel prior to being posted abroad and to military personnel prior to deployment on international peacekeeping missions.