Frequently Asked Questions:
- What is trafficking?
- What is the difference between people smuggling and human trafficking?
- What happens to the victims of human trafficking?
- Does physical violence have to be involved in human trafficking cases?
- How are the victims recruited?
- Why don’t victims escape?
- Do victims always come from a low-income or poor background?
- Who is at risk of becoming a victim of human trafficking?
- Trafficking in Australia?
- Do victims of trafficking self-identify as a victim of a crime and ask for help immediately?
- Does human trafficking only occur in illegal underground industries?
- Why is it important to have better estimates of numbers of trafficking victims?
- How can I submit a tip about a suspected trafficker or trafficked person?
- This website is excellent. How can I help spread the word about it?
- What’s being done?
Human trafficking is the criminal and illegal trading of human beings for the purpose of exploiting their labour. It is defined by a movement (or migration) into a non-consensual situation of exploitation (or harm) that results in the loss of control by an individual over his or her situation. Trafficking can occur within a country or across national borders.
The UN Trafficking Protocol of the Transnational Convention on Organized Crime (known colloquially as the “Palermo Protocol”) defines trafficking as:
- (The movement) “The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons”.
- (The means) “By means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person”.
- (The purpose) “For the purpose of exploitation”.
The Protocol notes that “exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”
People smuggling and trafficking in persons both involve the movement of people. In principle, trafficking in persons and people smuggling are distinctly different. Trafficking does not require an illegal border crossing, nor is it necessarily transnational, such as in cases of internal trafficking, whereas people smuggling always involves an illegal border crossing. While victims of people trafficking are regarded as commodities, individuals who are smuggled across borders are more like clients who pay for the service. It is the exploitative purpose that is at the core of trafficking and distinguishes it from other crimes.
Because trafficking in humans has an element of force, abduction, fraud or coercion for an improper purpose, such as forced or coerced labour, servitude, slavery or sexual exploitation it can involve actual or threatened physical and psychological violence to the victims or their families. It usually means little or no recompense for labour – what ever that might mean in the individual cases. Trafficking removes freedom to come and go at will. Women, men and children are trafficked/exploited and enslaved for forced labour in the construction, agriculture and domestic sectors as well as for begging, prostitution, soldiering, bodily organs and in many other ways.
Answer: No. Under the federal law, an individual who uses physical or psychological violence to force someone into a labor or sex industry is considered a human trafficker. Therefore, while some victims experience beatings, rape, and other forms of physical violence, many victims are controlled by traffickers through psychological means, such as threats of violence, manipulation, and lies. In many cases, traffickers use a combination of direct violence and mental abuse.
It is important to note that for minors force, fraud, or coercion are not required elements of the crime, meaning that anyone under the age of 18 in the commercial sex industry is a sex trafficking victim.
The traffickers are well-organized, often in large international and mafia criminal organizations. They can recruit through newspaper ads offering opportunity and work abroad and through a network of local recruiters who lie and cheat to catch the victims. The recruiters can also be friends or community members the victims have come to know and trust. They are often women who easily build trust with their desperate countrywomen. Each criminal network can employ up to 40 people, who deal with everything from housing to travel arrangements. They often include phony employment, travel and modeling agencies, passport forgers, truckers in human cargo and brothels.
Many victims try to escape but it is very difficult for them to leave their situation. If caught, their punishment can be horrific: beating, rape or death. Also, victims often have no money, passport, family or friends—no way to escape and nowhere to escape to. They very often do not speak the language of the country to which they have been trafficked.
No. Trafficking victims can come from a range of backgrounds and many may come from middle and upper class families. Poverty is one of many factors that make individuals vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking.
Since trafficking victims can be rich or poor, men or women, adults or children, and foreign nationals or Australian citizens, everyone is at risk for being trafficked. However, traffickers typically prey on individuals who are vulnerable in some way because they are easier to recruit and control. Some examples of high risk populations include undocumented migrants, runaways and at-risk youth, and oppressed or marginalized groups.
Australia is a country of destination for trafficked persons. Women have been trafficked into Australia for sexual exploitation, domestic service, mail-order brides, sweat shops and manufacturing. Men have been exploited into working in slave like conditions in the construction and agriculture areas as well as hospitality. There have been some young children who have been trafficked for adoption. Child sex tourism involves Australian men travelling to Asian countries. The government has very strong laws in relation to this and there have been Australians prosecuted for this crime. People are trafficked into Australia from countries in south east Asia.
Question 10: Do victims of trafficking self-identify as a victim of a crime and ask for help immediately?
Often no! Victims of trafficking often do not see themselves as victims and seek help immediately, due to lack of trust, self-blame, or training by traffickers.
While human trafficking occurs in illegal and underground markets, it can also occur in legal and legitimate settings. For example, common locations of trafficking include private homes, large fancy hotels, nail salons, restaurants, bars, and strip clubs.
Even after nearly ten years of attention to human trafficking, estimates of the number of human trafficking victims are very limited and generally lack empirical merit. Trafficking is a complex issue and it is reasonably argued that accurately estimating the extent of such underground criminal activity is a difficult task. Therefore, the counter-trafficking community has yet to come up with reliable methodologies for getting those numbers.
Without reliable numbers it is difficult to know if counter-trafficking policies and interventions are making a difference. In addition, limited resources are being allocated with little understanding of the scale and scope of the issue. This lack of understanding has significant impact on the efficiency and progress of counter-trafficking interventions.
Canberra: 02 6246 2348 Sydney: 02 9286 4294 Melbourne: 03 9607 7461 Brisbane: 07 3222 1490
OR: 1800 333 000 1300 237 677
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People trafficking is a complex crime and a violation of human rights. The Australian Government is committed to combating this crime and providing victims with Appropriate and humanitarian support.
Australian ratified the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime in 2004 and its supplementary Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children in 2005.
Australia’s anti-people trafficking strategy was established in 2003, with initial funding of $20 million over four years. A further $38.3 million over four years was allocated in the 2007-08 budget, including $26.3 million for new initiatives. Overall, Australia’s anti-trafficking strategy addresses the full trafficking cycle, from recruitment to reintegration, and lends equal weight to the critical areas of prevention, detection and investigation, prosecution and victim support.
From 1 July 2009, changes to the Support for Victims of People Trafficking Program (the Program) and the People Trafficking Visa Framework (the Visa Framework) will mean that victims of trafficking in Australia have access to a more flexible support framework for themselves and their families.
The Australian Federal Police work closely with State Police, Department of Foreign Affairs, the Office for Home Affairs, Department of Immigration and citizenship (DIAC) and other relevant government departments and NGOs.
The Australian Government works closely with our Asian and Pacific neighbours.
The challenge for all countries is to target the criminals who organise human trafficking schemes by exploiting desperate people. The United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime recognises that this is an international crime and therefore needs the cooperation of all countries. Up to date information can be obtained from the websites in the Key Links section of the Learn page of this website.