Law Enforcement Responses to Trafficking in Persons: Challenges and Emerging Good Practice

Article excerpt

In recent years, the Australian Government has committed significant resources to combating trafficking in persons. Within this larger anti-trafficking effort, the community sector, law enforcement, prosecutors, health professionals and members of the community all have an important role to play. As each sector comes to terms with the reality of trafficking in Australia, it is important that emerging challenges and possible solutions are identified. This paper focuses on the challenges that may confront law enforcement officials in any country in their efforts to detect trafficking, identify victims, investigate offences and contribute to the successful prosecution of offenders. Drawing on international experience, this paper identifies some examples of emerging good practice that can help to overcome these challenges, and contribute to the effectiveness of the larger criminal justice response to trafficking.

Toni Makkai

Director

Since the entry into force of the UN Trafficking Protocol in 2003, 1 15 countries, including Australia, have agreed to a set of key legal obligations relating to trafficking. These include obligations to:

* criminalise trafficking and provide appropriate penalties

* extradite or prosecute traffickers

* actively identify victims

* diligently investigate and prosecute traffickers

* assist and protect victims

* refrain from detaining and prosecuting victims

* provide adequate and appropriate remedies to victims of trafficking

* provide special measures for children

* work towards preventing trafficking

* cooperate across borders (Gallagher 2007: 2).

Having agreed on the legal framework, the next challenge for countries is to convert these legal obligations into practical outcomes. The translation of law into practice is rarely easy, particularly for a crime as complex as trafficking. Experience in Australia and overseas confirms that enacting appropriate criminal laws is just the first step. Greater challenges lie in giving full effect to these laws, while recognising the special rights and needs of victims of trafficking.

Drawing on the international literature, this paper seeks to identify some of the practical challenges that are likely to confront law enforcement officials in their efforts to:

* detect trafficking and identify victims of trafficking

* investigate trafficking cases

* contribute towards an effective prosecution of those accused of trafficking.

Many of these challenges are interrelated, and reflect both the nature of trafficking and the impact of the crime on victims of trafficking. This paper provides an overview of some of the strategies developed in response to these challenges. These strategies take account of the particular nature of the crime type and recognise the need to protect and support victims of crime.

Why is it so hard for law enforcement to detect and investigate trafficking?

Unlike many crimes, trafficking is not a single, static 'event'. It is a process that can involve multiple offenders and crime sites across several jurisdictions, ultimately leading to exploitation of the victim (ICMPD 2003: 87). Many investigations will be conducted in the country of destination where the exploitation is perpetrated. However, important evidence such as information about deceptive recruitment practices may be located in the country of origin or transit. Investigators in one country need to work closely with law enforcement officials in other countries to exchange information, and possibly also to secure evidence and extradite offenders.

The international legal definition of trafficking is complex, and incorporates a number of concepts that need to be clearly defined such as coercion, exercise of control over another, and exploitation. Many countries are still coming to terms with how best to translate these concepts into national law. …