Organised Crime and People Smuggling/Trafficking to Australia

By Tailby, Rebecca | Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, May 2001 | Go to article overview

Organised Crime and People Smuggling/Trafficking to Australia


Tailby, Rebecca, Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice


"Smuggling" and "trafficking" in human beings are similar concepts. Although in theory there are some important points of distinction, in practice the boundary between these concepts can become blurred. Within Australian law enforcement agencies, however, the crimes of people smuggling and people trafficking are largely treated separately (with little recognition of the latter). Increasingly, organised crime groups are being implicated in smuggling and trafficking of persons around the globe. This paper discusses recent changes in Australian law relating to people smuggling and trafficking, reviews the evidence on those responsible, and evaluates the involvement of organised crime in these activities.

Adam Graycar

Director

Migration Issues

Although the global population growth rate is slowing, world population figures remain on the increase. The United States Census Bureau reported in 1998 that 96 per cent of world population increases now occur in developing regions of Africa, Asia and Latin America (McDevitt 1998, p. 1). Along with other factors, this massive relative population expansion in developing countries has led to increased demand for migration. However, in recent years a counter-trend has seen reductions in legal opportunities for migration in many countries (International Organization for Migration 2000). For many, the desire to migrate - frequently stemming from economic and/or humanitarian needs - is stronger than the impediment provided by legal restrictions on immigration to many countries in the world. As a result, there are persons willing to seek migration outside of legal channels. The profits to be made from responding to such demand has motivated the development of illicit migration services, or people smuggling. Furthermore, the willingness, even desperation, of people to seek opportunities in more developed countries has increased their vulnerability to human trafficking.

The lucrative opportunities for those able to provide illicit people smuggling services have enticed not only local opportunistic criminals, but also transnational organised criminal networks, into the marketplace. Claims of increasing involvement of organised crime groups in people smuggling and trafficking have recently attracted attention and concern at an international level. Yet details on the criminal networks behind organised people smuggling are not always easy to obtain. An empirical analysis of criminal involvement in transnational people smuggling and trafficking requires one to identify:

* exactly what is meant by the terms "smuggling" and "trafficking";

* who is facilitating these activities; and

* whether this amounts to organised crime.

These analyses can then inform policy regarding appropriate legal and operational responses.

People Smuggling and Trafficking Under Domestic and International Law

Smuggling

The most recent international definition of "smuggling in migrants" appears in the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air (the Smuggling Protocol), supplementing the United Nations' Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime (the Convention). The Protocol defines people smuggling as:

The procurement, in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit, of the illegal entry of a person into a State Party of which the person is not a national or a permanent resident. (Article 3)

The emphasis is on the illegal crossing of national borders for profit. As this Protocol has not yet been signed and ratified by Australia, it has no binding legal force in this country. A definition under domestic law may be inferred from relevant provisions in the Migration Act 1958 (C with). In creating the offence of organised people smuggling of groups of five or more persons, section 2 32 A of the Act states that a person is guilty of an offence if he or she:

.

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