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Australia (Tier 1)

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, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Australia remained on Tier 1. These efforts included convicting more traffickers, ordering two convicted traffickers to pay restitution to a victim, increasing funding to NGOs for community prevention programs, and developing a monitoring and evaluation plan to track implementation of its 2020-2025 national action plan (NAP). Although the government meets the minimum standards, it did not adequately screen vulnerable groups traffickers may target, including domestic workers, international students, and migrant workers; this may have resulted in the government’s detention or deportation of unidentified victims.

PRIORITIZED RECOMMENDATIONS:

  • Continue to strengthen efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes pursuant to trafficking laws, with increased focus on pursuing labor trafficking crimes instead of labor or employment violations, and sentence convicted traffickers to significant prison terms.
  • Increase efforts to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable groups, such as undocumented migrants, asylum-seekers, agricultural and hospitality industry workers, visa holders, and domestic workers, and refer those victims to appropriate government authorities.
  • Further de-link the provision of services from participation in the criminal justice process and increase services available to victims unable or unwilling to participate in the criminal justice process.
  • Ensure the statutory definition of trafficking under the criminal code does not require movement of the victim as an element of the crime.
  • Continue efforts to train police, immigration officials, and other front-line officers, both offshore and onshore, to recognize indicators of trafficking and respond to suspected cases of both sex and labor trafficking.
  • Establish the National Labour Hire Registration Scheme with sufficient compliance tools.
  • Increase training for judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officials on the application of trafficking laws, elements of trafficking, investigative techniques, evidence collection specific to trafficking cases, and alternatives to victim testimony.
  • Conduct initial screening interviews with potential victims in a safe and neutral location and in the presence of a social service professional.
  • Establish a national compensation scheme for trafficking victims.
  • Continue to implement or fund awareness campaigns, particularly among rural communities and migrant populations, including international students, vulnerable to forced labor.
  • Continue to 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.

PROSECUTION

The government increased law enforcement efforts. Divisions 270 and 271 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code, when read together, criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Inconsistent with international law, the definition of “trafficking” under Division 271 required the element of movement of a victim. However, Division 270, which criminalized “slavery,” “servitude,” and “forced labor” offenses, could be utilized to prosecute trafficking crimes that did not involve victim movement. Division 271 prescribed penalties of up to 12 years’ imprisonment for offenses involving an adult victim and up to 25 years’ imprisonment for those involving a child victim. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Division 270 prescribed penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for slavery, up to 15 years’ imprisonment for servitude, and up to nine years’ imprisonment for forced labor. These penalties were all sufficiently stringent.

In 2021, the government referred 150 cases of suspected trafficking crimes for possible investigation, compared with 233 cases the previous year, which had included cases of exit trafficking, organ trafficking, harboring, and forced marriage. Authorities initiated prosecutions of three alleged traffickers, compared with four the previous reporting period. Authorities continued prosecutions of 19 defendants begun in previous reporting periods. Courts convicted and sentenced eight traffickers to significant prison terms, compared with two convictions the previous reporting period. Courts convicted two traffickers of slavery under section 270.3(1) of the criminal code, along with non-trafficking related charges, and two traffickers of forced labor under 270.6A of the criminal code, along with non-trafficking related charges. In one case, courts ordered two traffickers to pay 45,000 Australian dollars ($32,730) and 25,000 Australian dollars ($18,180) in restitution to the victim. In 2021, the government prosecuted 31 defendants for planning or engaging in sexual activity with children overseas; some of these cases were initiated in prior reporting periods. These efforts led to four convictions of child sex tourists, compared with 38 prosecutions with one conviction reported in 2020. Authorities continued to pursue labor, immigration, or employment violations in lieu of trafficking charges, which may have resulted in suspected 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 employees complicit in human trafficking crimes. The government reported pandemic-related delays in some court cases that required a jury; the courts allowed for remote court appearances and focused on facilitating early resolution of cases to address these delays. Authorities reported that despite pandemic-related restrictions, such as domestic lockdowns and border closures, law enforcement maintained dedicated staffing levels to address trafficking in persons and modern slavery crimes.

The government trained police, labor inspectors, immigration officers, prosecutors, and health care and community front-line workers on a variety of topics, including human trafficking investigations, evidence and information collection, anti-trafficking enforcement policies and laws, victim identification and referral, and victim support services. In addition, the government trained government officials to identify, assess, and mitigate modern slavery risks in procurement processes. The government also trained prosecutors and judicial officials on trafficking-related laws. Front-line officers stated that an anti-trafficking training activity designed to develop investigative skills did not contain applicable operational and practical skills, such as interviewing vulnerable witnesses and compiling evidence. In a 2021 report by the Australian Institute of Criminology, prosecutors identified explaining and proving difficult concepts at trial as one of the greatest challenges of prosecuting trafficking cases. Prosecutors raised concerns with inconsistent interpretation, understanding, and application of human trafficking and slavery crimes among prosecutorial and judicial officials. Prosecutors relied heavily on victim testimony due to the difficulty of corroborating evidence, and the average time for court proceedings was 2.5 to 3.4 years, hindering cooperation from victims. Observers reported authorities discussed measures to reduce overreliance on victim testimonies; also discussed was the lack of special investigative measures to corroborate evidence that have led to cases being investigated and prosecuted under non- trafficking statutes or dismissed.

PROTECTION

The government maintained efforts to protect victims. Authorities identified 34 victims, compared with 25 victims the previous year; for the remainder of victims from the previous year, the form of exploitation was not reported. Four of the potential victims were younger than 18 years old. Similar to the previous reporting period, authorities referred all those identified as potential victims to the Australian government’s NGO-implemented support program. Despite pandemic restrictions on travel, the government also assisted 10 potential Australian trafficking victims abroad, compared with 11 the previous year; it was not clear how many of these individuals were victims of trafficking as defined by international law compared with victims of forced marriage or individuals vulnerable to forced marriage.

Authorities identified most victims through the efforts of joint agencies, health care facilities, task forces, and cooperative action with foreign governments. Authorities continued to utilize a list of indicators to identify trafficking victims and refer them to services. Observers reported authorities often linked trafficking to migration and continued to inadequately screen for indicators of trafficking in the agricultural and hospitality industries and among offshore migrants. Despite persistent reports of sexual exploitation, forced labor, and multiple trafficking indicators among foreign workers in Australia under the auspices of the Working Holiday Visa scheme and Seasonal Worker Program (SWP), authorities did not report proactively screening for trafficking indicators among such workers. In the Working Holiday Visa program, the government’s requirement of completing 88 days to obtain a second-year or third-year visa was a key driver for why such visa recipients acquiesce to legally non-compliant or exploitative conditions. The government did not report screening seasonal workers who left their employer for trafficking indicators, which may have resulted in authorities detaining and deporting unidentified trafficking victims. Observers reported some victims may have been reluctant to communicate with law enforcement officers due to fear of detention and deportation and the existence of language barriers. Government policy sought to prevent victims from being held in immigration detention or otherwise arrested for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit; however, due to a lack of formal identification procedures, authorities may have deported or detained some unidentified victims. Observers reported that publicized reports of high-level government officials’ engagement in commercial sex may have discouraged sex trafficking victims from seeking support from government providers.

Authorities provided formally identified trafficking victims and potential victims with accommodation, living expenses, legal advice, health services, vocational training, and counseling through the support program. The government allocated 2.84 million Australian dollars ($2.07 million) from the federal budget to the support program in the 2021-2022 funding year, none of which was pandemic-related support, compared with 4.3 million Australian dollars ($3.13 million) during the 2020-2021 funding year, of which 1.8 million was for pandemic-related support. Only the police had the legal authority to refer victims to the support program; experts reported this requirement prevented some victims from accessing needed support services. The support program had five “streams” that were tailored to the needs of the particular victim. The assessment and intensive support stream within the support program assisted victims for up to 45 days, irrespective of whether they were willing or able to assist with the investigation or prosecution of a human trafficking or slavery-related crime. The extended intensive support stream allowed for an additional 45 days of access to the program on a case-by-case basis for victims willing to assist with investigation or prosecution but not yet able to do so for reasons including age, ill health, trauma, or a practical impediment. Children who were suspected victims of trafficking were automatically entitled to the extended support program if it was in their best interest. The temporary trial support stream assisted victims giving evidence pertaining to a human trafficking related prosecution. The justice support stream aided victims until the finalization of their case investigation and/or prosecution. The forced marriage support stream provided those in or at risk of forced marriage—who may or may not have been trafficking victims according to international standards—with up to 200 days of support without being required to participate in a criminal investigation or prosecution against perpetrators. NGOs continued to report some support services for victims were contingent on participation in law enforcement investigations and the government would cease provision of services when investigations ended. The government did not report how it provided services to adults unable or unwilling to participate in law enforcement investigations.

The government provided temporary and permanent visas to eligible victims. In 2021, the government provided 18 temporary stay visas to foreign trafficking victims, compared with 28 victims in 2020, despite border closures that significantly reduced travel to Australia. Fewer than five individuals were granted permanent “referred stay” visas, the same as in 2020; this included victims and their immediate family members, although some of these cases may have been victims of forced marriage rather than trafficking. Courts ordered two convicted traffickers to pay restitution to one victim. The government did not have a national victim compensation system for crime victims, and victims relied on civil proceedings to access compensation. The government operated a national anti-trafficking hotline but did not report the number of cases initiated from calls to the hotline.

PREVENTION

The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. The Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Branch within the Australian Border Force (ABF) led the government’s domestic response to trafficking; the ABF was the chair of the Australian Interdepartmental Committee on Human Trafficking and Slavery (IDC), which coordinated the government’s anti-trafficking policy framework and led the 2020- 2025 NAP implementation efforts. In addition, the Operational Working Group (OWG), a subcommittee of the IDC, focused on operational issues and information-sharing in relation to the support program; the OWG reported meeting more frequently about pandemic-related impacts on trafficking victims. The government, in consultation with NGOs, developed a monitoring and evaluation plan to measure NAP progress. The IDC drafted and delivered to Parliament a report on government anti-trafficking efforts completed in 2017 to 2020.

The government funded multiple research projects conducted by an academic institution and NGO, and it awarded 1.67 million Australian dollars ($1.2 million) to seven NGOs to implement community prevention programs in Australia, compared with 393,380 Australian dollars ($286,090) for the 2020-2021 period. NGOs implementing these programs focused on forced labor, survivor engagement to inform national policy, migrant worker rights, trafficking indicators, Modern Slavery Act reporting, and increased trafficking awareness and community collaboration of anti-trafficking activities. The government conducted awareness campaigns targeting visa holders and the public. Observers in Pacific Island Countries (PICs) reported concern that many migrant workers did not fully understand their offers or conditions of employment prior to arriving in Australia, despite receiving and reading their letter of offer and employment before arrival. Observers also noted many migrant workers did not know their workplace rights. The government conducted a campaign targeting seasonal workers, who are vulnerable to trafficking, on the consequences of absconding; the campaign warned visa holders against leaving their designated employer to find other work.

The Modern Slavery Act 2018 required businesses and entities with annual revenue of 100 million Australian dollars ($72.73 million) or greater to publish an annual modern slavery statement detailing their efforts to combat modern slavery in their supply chains and operations, among other provisions. The government published its second Modern Slavery statement, in compliance with the act, and updated the publicly available online registry of all submitted statements. The government posted more than 2,500 statements from businesses, covering nearly 6,000 entities operating in more than 23 different industries on the registry, which was the second submission period under the act. The government developed and disseminated guidance documents, including on how the pandemic may have increased forced labor risks in supply chains, to assist businesses with the implementation of the act’s requirements. In addition, the government conducted 34 educational engagements with businesses to support the understanding and completion of the act’s requirements. However, observers noted the act provided no financial penalty to companies for non-compliance and a majority of companies that did report failed to fully address the mandatory reporting requirements of forced labor risks in their supply chains; an NGO analyzed 102 company statements published in the first reporting cycle of the Modern Slavery Act and found that less than a third of companies took action to address modern slavery risks in their supply chains. Several NGOs urged the government to strengthen its enforcement framework of the act and require companies to take steps to prevent forced labor.

In 2021, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre created and distributed its first written guide of financial indicators of trafficking to businesses. The government established an intergovernmental network to address labor exploitation in public procurement across state, territory, and commonwealth jurisdictions. The Fair Work Ombudsman continued to prioritize prevention of potential labor exploitation—including human trafficking—amongst migrant workers, focusing on awareness in domestic workers and among international students. In November 2021, the Fair Work Commission established a minimum wage for horticulture workers.

The government did not implement a recommendation (from the February 2019 Migrant Workers Taskforce Report) to create a national Labour Hire Registration Scheme requiring recruitment agencies in designated high-risk industries to register with the government and employers to use only these registered agencies. Similar registration schemes had been implemented in Queensland and South Australia in 2018, Victoria in 2019, and the Australian Capital Territory in 2021. In November 2021, Parliament introduced the “Protecting Migrant Workers” Bill 2021. The legislation aimed to increase protections for non-Australian workers and introduced new criminal offenses related to coercing migrant workers to accept work arrangements to fulfill visa requirements; the bill was pending at the end of the reporting period.

An NGO reported concern the government did not effectively monitor and enforce labor laws in rural parts of Australia, heightening risks of forced labor. Domestic workers within Australia—especially in the state of Western Australia, those lacking a contract, or residing within diplomatic households—remained extremely vulnerable to exploitation due to the lack of clear protective oversight mechanisms relevant to these populations. However, in December 2021, the Western Australian government changed the definition of “employee” to include domestic work as part of its industrial relations framework to bring such work under state regulation. In September 2021, the Select Committee on Temporary Migration in Parliament released a report with 40 recommendations to improve Australia’s temporary visa system; one of the recommendations included the removal of the 88-day requirement with respect to farm work to be eligible for a second or third Working Holiday Visa. In June 2021, the government had removed the 88-day requirement for British citizens under the Working Holiday Visa as part of the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement; however, the requirement remained for all other nationalities. Under the SWP, workers’ employment and immigration status were tied to a specific employer; observers noted this increased migrant workers’ vulnerability to forced labor.

In March 2022, the government released its second installment of its International Engagement Strategy on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery; the update focused on increasing cooperation with international partners to address trafficking in the region. The government continued to work with other governments by engaging in anti-trafficking dialogue, sharing information, conducting trainings, and providing technical assistance. Australia maintained policy and legislative frameworks to prevent, detect, disrupt, investigate, and prosecute child sexual abuse and exploitation, including crimes that occurred online, within Australia and overseas. The government made efforts to reduce the demand for participation in international sex tourism by its citizens by publishing materials for passport applicants outlining the application of Australian child sex trafficking laws to Australians overseas and by conducting law enforcement efforts with international law enforcement partners. The government cancelled 67 passports and denied seven to child sex offenders, which was the third year the government implemented these legal authorities. In addition, authorities provided 132 notifications to foreign law enforcement regarding traveling Australian and foreign national child sex offenders. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts within Australia.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Australia, and traffickers exploit victims from Australia abroad. Traffickers primarily exploit women and men in forced labor and, to a lesser extent, women and girls in sex trafficking. Traffickers exploit a small number of children, primarily teenage Australian and foreign girls, in 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, traffickers compel some of these women to enter or remain in commercial sex in both legal and illegal commercial sex establishments, as well as massage parlors and private apartments. Traffickers hold some foreign women—and sometimes girls—in captivity and exploit them through physical and sexual violence and intimidation, manipulate them through illegal drugs, and force them to pay off unexpected or inflated debts. Traffickers attempt to evade authorities by allowing victims to carry their passports while in commercial sex establishments and frequently moving the victims to different locations to prevent them from establishing relationships with civil society or other victims. Traffickers isolate foreign women and girls from Australian women to inhibit information sharing about rights, regulations, and work standards in commercial sex establishments; foreign women and girls are likely uninformed about legal commercial sex laws and regulations and are more vulnerable to exploitation. Some victims of sex trafficking and some women who migrate to Australia for arranged or forced marriages are exploited by their husbands or families in domestic servitude. Unscrupulous employers and labor agencies exploit some men and women from Asia and several Pacific Islands who are recruited to work temporarily in Australia to forced labor in agriculture, cleaning, construction, hospitality and tourism, and domestic service. An investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman found that some fraudulent foreign contracting companies exploit farm workers in bonded labor. There are reported cases of forced labor and other forms of exploitation in the agriculture and horticulture sectors, where victims (often foreign migrants and often from Asia) are threatened against leaving their jobs or seeking help. Traffickers may exploit temporary migrants, including individuals on working holiday visas, and international students in forced labor, especially when based in remote regions with limited access to support. Some identified victims are foreign citizens on student visas who pay significant placement and academic fees. Unscrupulous employers may coerce students to work in excess of the terms of their visas, making them vulnerable to trafficking by exploiting fears of deportation for immigration violations. Migrant workers may have a lack of awareness of Australian workplace laws, access to health care, legal protections available to the domestic workforce, and support due to volatile employment and uncertain visa conditions, as well as language barriers; they are more vulnerable to trafficking. Some foreign diplomats allegedly exploit domestic workers in forced labor in Australia. Changes in 2019 to entitlements for diplomats in Australia may slightly reduce the overall number of foreign domestic workers in the country. Instances of forced labor in domestic service are sometimes undetected or unacknowledged by authorities and thus not captured in official statistics. Some fishing vessels that transit or dock at Australian ports use physical abuse to force men to perform labor. Victims of domestic servitude in Australia work in extremely isolated circumstances with little to no oversight or regulation. Asylum-seekers, detained for attempting to reach Australia by sea or waiting in country for application decisions, may have increased vulnerability to forced labor or sex trafficking due to displacement, economic instability, and lack of access to basic resources and community support networks. Reports show heightened risks of child sexual exploitation, some of which may be child sex trafficking, which may be due to pandemic- related economic impacts. A small number of Australian residents may facilitate and engage in commercial sex and child sex tourism abroad, including in Thailand.

U.S. Department of State

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