[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

AUSTRALIA (TIER 1)   [Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]

Australia is a destination country for women from Southeast Asia, South Korea, Taiwan, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and reportedly Eastern Europe trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Some men and women from several Pacific islands, India, the PRC, South Korea, the Philippines, and Ireland are fraudulently recruited to work temporarily in Australia, but subsequently are subjected to conditions of forced labor, including confiscation of travel documents, confinement, and threats of serious harm. Some indigenous teenage girls are subjected to forced prostitution at rural truck stops. Some women who migrated to Australia voluntarily to work illegally in licensed or illegal brothels were subsequently subjected to debt bondage or involuntary servitude. Although most operate through a network of informal contacts in their native countries, experienced and increasingly sophisticated traffickers are adjusting their methods to try to sidestep provisions of anti-trafficking laws. There are traffickers who file asylum claims in the false names victims use to enter the country; victims who later go to the police for help appear unreliable and are at risk of deportation because of their false asylum claim. Unscrupulous recruiters entice undocumented foreign women into prostitution, coaching them to apply for student visas in real or false names, as students may legally work 20 hours a week. Men with legal residence in Australia marry foreign women whom they coerce into prostitution or force into domestic servitude. Some of the civil complaints to authorities about labor violations were noted to contain elements indicative of the crime of trafficking.

The Government of Australia fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. During the year, three offenders were convicted specifically for slavery and trafficking offenses. The courts set out the elements of the crimes and a roadmap for the successful prosecution of the crimes of slavery, sexual servitude, debt bondage, and trafficking. A court also established that a woman who agreed to work either legally or illegally in prostitution had in no way also agreed to her enslavement or to working in conditions of slavery. A government study recommended changes to the 457 temporary worker visa program to halt the exploitation of foreign workers.

Recommendations for Australia: Continue to conduct systematic efforts to proactively identify trafficking victims in the legalized sex trade; criminally prosecute employers who subject migrant workers to debt bondage and involuntary servitude; implement recommended changes to the 457 temporary employment visa program; and continue to implement or support a visible anti-trafficking awareness campaign directed at clients of the sex trade.

The Government of Australia demonstrated increasing anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts over the last year. Australia prohibits sex and labor trafficking and trafficking-related offenses in Divisions 270 and 271 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code, which prescribe maximum penalties from 12 to 25 years’ imprisonment and/or fines of up to $140,000. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other grave crimes. In 2008, the government obtained significant convictions for sexual slavery and trafficking under its most recent laws. The two defendants in R vs Wei Tang, a trial that began in 2005, were convicted of slavery in 2007; after a retrial and conviction in 2008, they await sentencing. Keith William Dobie was convicted of trafficking in persons offenses pursuant to section 271.2(2B) of the Criminal Code and sentenced in December 2008 to five years’ imprisonment. In March 2009, five more prosecutions were before the courts, involving 11 defendants. The Australian Federal Police (AFP) established an additional Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation Task Team (TSETT) in Brisbane in November 2008. The AFP, as of September 2008, had trained 132 specialist investigators on relevant legislation, investigative methodologies, trafficking trends, intelligence targeting, and victim liaison. The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) trained prosecutors on cross-cultural issues in trafficking cases, child eyewitness testimony, and interviewing. As part of its pilot Witness Assistance Service, the CDPP developed materials explaining the criminal justice system to trafficking victims and witnesses. Since November 2008, a Witness Assistance Officer worked with prosecutors on trafficking cases. There were no reports of official involvement in trafficking. There were no cases of sexual exploitation involving Australian troops or peacekeeping officers deployed abroad.

The Government of Australia continued to provide comprehensive assistance for victims of trafficking willing to aid in criminal prosecutions and their family members. The government encouraged victims and witnesses to participate in trafficking investigations, and directly linked continued assistance to victims’ role in a viable prosecution. Those victims who do not receive a trafficking visa generally qualify for a protection visa as a refugee, which they can apply for independently. Victims are not inappropriately incarcerated, fined, or penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. The government is considering reforms recommended by officials and NGOs who reviewed the trafficking visa system. In collaboration with NGOs, the government developed detailed guidelines for assisting trafficking victims, which were published on its website in December 2008. The Office of Women managed the Support for Victims of People Trafficking Program. As of January 22, 2009, their program supported 44 victims. The average length of time spent in the Victim Support Program was 12.5 months.

The Government of Australia demonstrated efforts to prevent trafficking in persons during the year. The Australian Government published the “Travel Smart: Hints for Australian Travellers,” brochure, which highlights Australian trafficking and child sex crime laws, noting they "also prohibit the incitement, encouragement of, or gaining benefit from such activities." It provides details for reporting a possible violation of Australia's child sex laws to the AFP. From July to December 2008, the Australian Passports Office distributed over 700,000 Travel Smart brochures, one with every passport renewal. In March 2008, a two-year international investigation led by Queensland Police Task Force “Argos” dismantled a criminal ring which arranged and provided live video feeds of the sexual and physical abuse of children to paying customers around the world via the Internet. Australian courts convicted two men of commercial sexual exploitation of a child, including the man responsible for the website's security. Australia’s extra-territorial law on child sex tourism provides penalties of up to 17 years’ imprisonment for Australians convicted of sexually exploiting children under the age of 16. Two prosecutions under this law were begun in 2008. The Australian government bolstered its communications strategy to increase awareness about trafficking within the sex industry in October 2008 when it announced $680,000 in funding for four Australian NGOs’ efforts to provide outreach for trafficking victims and conduct education and awareness initiatives on human trafficking. There were no other visible measures to reduce the demand for forced labor or commercial sex acts in Australia during the reporting period. The government released a report of an experts’ review on the 457 temporary worker visa program, which proposed 66 changes to protect migrants from exploitation by employers, such as more closely screening and monitoring employers. Changes to the scheme are scheduled to be included in the next budget. Twenty eight specialist overseas immigration officers and 18 overseas Airport Liaison Officers are working to stop trafficking at its source. In addition, the government provides substantial funding for law enforcement training, victim assistance programs, and prevention activities throughout Southeast Asia. The Australian government ensured that troops and police officers preparing to deploy with UN peacekeeping missions were made aware of trafficking issues and instructed as to the legal ramifications in Australia of engaging in or facilitating trafficking, or exploiting trafficking victims while deployed