The Government of Australia fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore Australia remained on Tier 1. The government demonstrated serious and sustained efforts by investigating more cases, convicting more traffickers, identifying and referring victims to services, administering a program through which community groups delivered services assisting vulnerable workers, and increasing training for law enforcement personnel. Although the government meets the minimum standards, it did not adequately screen for indicators of trafficking among vulnerable groups and limited some victims’ access to services based on participation in law enforcement investigations. Due to inconsistent screening, some potential victims were detained, fined, or penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking.

Significantly strengthen efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, with increased focus on labor trafficking, and convict and stringently sentence sex and labor traffickers; strengthen efforts to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable groups, such as undocumented migrants or workers filing civil grievances; de-link the provision of services from participation in the criminal justice process; increase efforts to train police and other front-line officers to recognize indicators of trafficking and respond to suspected cases of both sex and labor trafficking; increase training for prosecutors and judges on Australian trafficking laws; conduct initial screening interviews with potential victims in a safe and neutral location, and in the presence of a social service professional; increase funding to NGOs for robust victim protection services and consider establishing a national compensation scheme for trafficking victims; implement or fund awareness campaigns, particularly among rural communities and migrant populations; strengthen efforts to prosecute and convict Australian child sex tourists; increase efforts to investigate and hold accountable foreign diplomats posted in Australia suspected of complicity in trafficking; and increase efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex and forced labor, including in supply chains and government procurement policy.

The government increased law enforcement efforts. Divisions 270 and 271 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code criminalized sex and labor trafficking and prescribed maximum penalties of 12 to 25 years imprisonment and fines of up to 197,000 Australian dollars ($154,030). These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The criminal code also criminalized forced labor and prescribed penalties of nine years imprisonment, and the Migration Act of 2007 criminalized exploitation of migrant workers through forced labor, sexual servitude, or slavery, and prescribed penalties of up to five years imprisonment and various fines.

In 2017, the government investigated 166 suspected cases of trafficking (105 in 2016), initiated prosecutions against six defendants (five in 2016), and convicted five traffickers (one in 2016). Authorities continued prosecutions from previous reporting periods against 14 defendants. The government convicted one sex trafficker and, in one case, four labor traffickers. Under the law, prosecutors cannot recommend prison sentences—a factor that may contribute to weak penalties for traffickers prosecuted under lesser criminal charges. The government opened one investigation into alleged labor trafficking in the household of a foreign diplomat but reported being unable to pursue prosecution due to diplomatic immunity provisions. The government also prosecuted four defendants for allegedly traveling overseas to engage in child sex tourism but did not obtain any convictions (three in 2016). Authorities often opted to pursue labor or employment violations in lieu of trafficking charges, resulting in potential labor traffickers receiving only fines and other civil penalties that were inadequate to deter trafficking crimes. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking offenses. The government-funded and facilitated training on trafficking investigations, legal provisions, and victim support for more than 500 law enforcement and immigration officials. The Australian Federal Police (AFP) developed online training for front-line officers during the reporting period.

The government maintained efforts to protect victims. Authorities identified 38 potential victims (18 for sex trafficking and forced labor, and 20 for which the form of exploitation was unclear), compared with 36 in 2016. Authorities referred all 38 potential victims to the Australian government’s Support for Trafficked People Program (support program). The government also assisted 15 potential Australian trafficking victims abroad, four of whom were returned to Australia; the government provided two of those returned assistance under the support program. Authorities utilized a list of indicators to identify trafficking victims and refer them to services; the government collaborated with NGOs to update the list during the reporting period. However, authorities did not routinely screen for indicators of trafficking among vulnerable groups, and authorities often linked trafficking to migration. The government did not report screening for trafficking indicators among individuals smuggled via sea before forcing intercepted boats back outside of Australian territorial waters, or among refugees and asylum-seekers held in offshore detention centers, where they may have faced inadequate living conditions. Immigration authorities forcibly deported some asylum-seekers who may have been vulnerable to trafficking after returning to their home countries. Authorities identified most victims through the efforts of joint agencies, task forces, and cooperative action with foreign governments. Some victims may have been reluctant to communicate with law enforcement officers due to fear of detainment and deportation. The government did not ensure social service professionals were present during initial screening interviews, although procedures were in place for law enforcement officials to bring them in at their discretion. While the government consulted with civil society through the Senior Official’s Meeting of the National Roundtable on Human Trafficking and Slavery, NGOs noted a lack of collaboration on the ground in efforts to identify and screen for victims.

Authorities provided formally identified trafficking victims with accommodation, living expenses, legal advice, health services, vocational training, and counseling through a support program, for which the government continued to allocate approximately 1.7 million Australian dollars ($1.3 million). Only AFP had the legal authority to refer victims to the support program. NGOs reported the government denied access to or ceased provision of services to some victims who were unable or unwilling to participate in law enforcement investigations. In 2017, the government provided temporary stay visas to 13 foreign trafficking victims (33 in 2016), and granted permanent “referred stay” visas to eight victims (six in 2016) and their immediate family members, although some of these cases may have been forced marriage rather than trafficking. The government required victims to assist with an investigation or prosecution of a trafficking offense to obtain referred stay visas. Authorities provided witness assistance services to nine victims while they participated in prosecutions. The government did not have a centralized victim compensation system and victims relied on civil proceedings to access compensation. Some victims were detained, fined, or penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking; this was largely due to the lack of proper screening and the government’s requirement for victims to participate in viable investigations.

The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. The Australian Interdepartmental Committee on Human Trafficking and Slavery coordinated the government’s anti-trafficking efforts. The government continued implementation of its five-year national action plan to combat trafficking, launched in 2014, funded research projects, and facilitated awareness sessions for government agencies and civil society groups. The government also allocated 500,000 Australian dollars ($390,930) to four NGOs for projects dedicated to prevent trafficking; however, NGOs noted this funding mainly went towards organizations focused on forced marriage and the government did not produce adequate trafficking awareness campaigns. The government continued to fund anti-trafficking initiatives and deliver trainings in the Asia-Pacific region. The Fair Work Ombudsman administered a program to fund community groups to deliver services assisting vulnerable workers. It continued to conduct awareness-raising campaigns on migrant workers’ rights and conducted inquiries into potential labor abuses committed against migrant workers. The government continued to publish materials for passport applicants outlining the application of Australian child sexual exploitation and child sex tourism laws to Australians overseas. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, but it operated a ministerial labor exploitation working group and migrant workers task force aimed at reducing the demand for forced labor. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade conditioned the departure of diplomatic personnel to overseas posts on compliance with Australia’s anti-trafficking legislation and Home Affairs distributed a training package to its overseas staff and visa service providers.

As reported over the last five years, Australia is primarily a destination country for women and girls subjected to sex trafficking and for women and men subjected to forced labor. A small number of children, primarily teenage Australian and foreign girls, are subjected to sex trafficking within the country. Some women from Asia and, to a lesser extent, Eastern Europe and Africa migrate to Australia to work legally or illegally in a number of sectors, including commercial sex. After their arrival, some of these women are coerced to enter or remain in prostitution in both legal and illegal brothels, as well as massage parlors and private apartments. Some foreign women—and sometimes girls—are held in captivity, subjected to physical and sexual violence and intimidation, manipulated through illegal drugs, obliged to pay off unexpected or inflated debts to traffickers, or otherwise deceived about working arrangements. Traffickers attempt to evade authorities by allowing victims to carry their passports while in brothels and frequently move them to different locations to prevent victims from establishing relationships with civil society or other victims. Some victims of sex trafficking and some women who migrate to Australia for arranged marriages are subjected to domestic servitude. Unscrupulous employers and labor agencies subject some men and women from Asia and several Pacific Islands recruited to work temporarily in Australia to forced labor in agriculture, cleaning, construction, hospitality, and domestic service. Some identified victims are foreign citizens on student visas who pay significant placement and academic fees. Unscrupulous employers coerce students to work in excess of the terms of their visas, making them vulnerable to trafficking due to fears of deportation for immigration violations. Some foreign diplomats allegedly subject domestic workers to forced labor in Australia.

U.S. Department of State

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