Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Migration and People Trafficking in Southeast Asia

Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Migration and People Trafficking in Southeast Asia

Article excerpt

Foreword | Although the number of identified cases of trafficking into Australia is relatively low, the hidden nature of this crime and reluctance of trafficked persons to report to authorities suggests that a number of cases may go unidentified and the problem may be more extensive than available data indicates. Much can be learned about the risks of exploitation, including trafficking, from an overview of undocumented movement throughout the region. The risk of people being trafficked to Australia is largely mitigated by well-protected borders and economic opportunities in more accessible regions. However, management of the risks of trafficking in the southeast Asian region is connected to strategies that aim to prevent trafficking at source countries and to the activities of Australians and Australian entities in those countries. Characteristics of migration in southeast Asia -such as the role of informal networks in facilitating movement and the exploitation of migrants for non-sex work as well as sex work- hold important implications for Australia's response to people trafficking.

Adam Tomison


People trafficking occurs within the context of high levels of people movement (particularly undocumented), which are primarily driven by the desire for greater economic opportunity and a better quáity of life. Southeast Asia is known to be a significant source of trafficked persons and intra- regional trafficking is high. However, the Asian region is also a primary source for persons who are trafficked around the world, with Australia among the target destinations. The southeast Asian region has seen a high level of predominantly intraregional migration since the 1 98Os Kaur 2007), These high levels of people movement have been driven by various socioeconomic and political push and pull factors operating throughout the region (IOM 2008).

This paper examines the characteristics of migration in southeast Asia, the ways in which people trafficking occurs within this process and the implications for Australia's antitrafficking response nationally and regionäly. It is based on a literature review, äong with information from interviews conducted with prosecutors, law enforcement officers, policy officers and representatives of non -govern ment and international organisations in Tháland, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia.

Mobility across southeast Asia

It is important to understand that trafficking and other forms of exploitation occur within well-worn migratory pathways. Trafficking occurs as part of the migration continuum; many trafficked people consent to the initial movement through a facilitator or move of their own accord and it only becomes evident at their destination that they have been deceived and are being exploited. In the case of trafficking, the primary objective of the offender is the exploitation of a person for labour or services at the destination. Although both trafficking and smuggling are processes that involve the movement of people, put simply, smuggling involves a transaction which ends once the person is delivered to their destination.

The southeast Asian region has experienced high levels of migration, particularly intraregional migration, since the 1 98Os (Kaur 2007). Rapid economic growth in some countries, áong with 'push' factors in others, has led to a surge in labour migration, both skilled and unskilled, from neighbouring economically-disadvantaged countries. Of the ASEAN countries, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Thäland are destination countries for labour migrants and Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines and Vietnam are primarily source countries. Malaysia and Thailand both send and receive labour migrants, with Thailand a key destination for countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion (Kaur 2006).

The combination of extensive land and sea borders and the limited capacity of government authorities to adequately govern borders render the region vulnerable to undocumented migration. …

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