Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

People Trafficking in Australia

Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

People Trafficking in Australia

Article excerpt

People trafficking is a modern day form of slavery that involves the recruiting, harbouring or the movement of people using coercion, deception or force for the purpose of exploitation (see Box 1 for the UN definition). There is general acknowledgement internationally and domestically that a lack of reliable data exists on people trafficking largely due to the clandestine nature of the crime. It has been suggested that victims are trafficked from 127 different countries and undergo exploitation in 135 countries around the world (UNODC 2006). Worldwide estimates of the number of trafficked persons, ranging from 500,000 to four million, are impossible to verify (US GAO 2006; Joudo Larsen, Lindley & Putt 2009); however, it is known that men, women and children are trafficked for a wide range of purposes such as sexual exploitation, as well as labour in a range of industries including hospitality, construction, forestry, mining and agriculture. Other forms of exploitation include illicit adoption, forced recruitment into armed forces or militia, street begging and the harvesting of organs.

While an exact figure on the number of people trafficked into Australia remains elusive, a clearer picture is emerging of the nature of people trafficking since the introduction of criminal offences relating to sexual servitude and slavery in 1999 (Criminal Code Amendment (Slavery and Sexual Servitude) Act 1999 (Cth)). This paper draws on AIC research, academic literature, prosecutions and reports by government and non-government and international organisations to examine what is known about the nature of people trafficking in Australia from known cases and how this fits with prevailing stereotypes/myths within the community.

Legislation on people trafficking in Australia

Trafficking-related legislation was first introduced in Australia in 1999 through amendments to the Criminal Code Act 1995. The Criminal Code Amendment (Slavery and Sexual Servitude) Act 1999 (Cth) created the offences of slavery, sexual servitude and deceptive recruiting but failed to define trafficking in persons.

In August 2005, the relevant trafficking legislation underwent significant reform and a range of new offences were created under the Criminal Code Amendment (Trafficking in Persons Offences) Act 2005 (Cth). Offences of trafficking in persons, trafficking in children, domestic trafficking in persons and debt bondage were created under this legislation (see Joudo Larsen, Lindley & Putt 2009)

Extent of people trafficking in Australia

As with most crimes, an exact figure for the number of persons trafficked into Australia is impossible to obtain. There exists a wide discrepancy between officially detected cases and estimates on the number of victims.

This discrepancy, in part, reflects high levels of under-reporting, with trafficked persons often fearful of authorities and the possible repercussions for themselves and their families should they be detected. Further, trafficking matters may not be identified as such; instead, offenders may be charged with a range of other offences including kidnap/abduction, assault and domestic violence among others. This discrepancy has also raised concerns for the validity and reliability of the methodologies used to calculate reported estimates (US GAO 2006).

The available aggregate statistics from Australian Government agencies indicate that between January 2004 and June 2011 :

* 305 investigations and assessments of trafficking-related offences were conducted by the AFP's Transnational Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking Teams;

* 184 victims of trafficking had been provided with assistance through the government funded Office for Women's Support for Trafficked Persons (STP) Program; and

* 13 people convicted for people trafficking-related offences (9 of the 13 defendants were convicted of slavery offences, 3 of sexual servitude and 1 of people trafficking). …

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