What is Human Trafficking?
The Palermo Protocol defines Human Trafficking as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of people through force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them for profit. Women, men and children of all ages and from all backgrounds can become victims of this crime, which occurs in every region of the world.
Modern Slavery Snapshots
Modern day slavery exists throughout the world and in Australia today.
It has a different face to what many people may imagine, but the outcome for most is very similar. They are often trapped in poverty and have little chance of education.
The following six snapshots show the contemporary face of human trafficking and slavery here and overseas. (Names have been changed to protect identities.)
Rani is 17 and attends high school in Melbourne. When her parents said they were taking her overseas to marry a man she had never met, she thought she had no option but to comply. When ACRATH spoke at her school, she learnt about her legal right to choose her own husband and to avoid a forced marriage.
Fatima was a housekeeper at a consulate in Sydney. She fled after being enslaved in the consulate for months. She received no wages. ACRATH is linking her with a pro bono lawyer to explore her legal options.
Han is a construction worker who worked on a building site in Canberra for many months. His trafficker disappeared with the wages owed to Han and his co-workers. ACRATH is working with unions to address this.
Lin is a woman trafficked into sexual exploitation who thought she would earn a lot of money working in Australia. Instead when she arrived she was told she owed her trafficker $50,000. An ACRATH member is offering companionship to Lin as she recovers.
Manu is a young teenager who was trafficked from his home country into a cocoa plantation in west Africa, the source of about 75% of the world’s cocoa. ACRATH actively promotes slavery-free chocolate, tea and coffee, especially through the slavery-free Easter chocolate campaign.
Samreen was badly injured when in April 2013 the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh collapsed, killing 1,136 poorly paid garment workers, mostly female, and injuring more than 2,500. Workers from Rana Plaza have told media that they had pointed out large cracks the day before, and that clothing subcontractors insisted the workers re-enter the cracked building or lose their jobs. The subcontractors had agreements with Australian and other global companies to make garments to be sold cheaply in countries like Australia. Australian clothing labels were found in the debris of the collapsed building. ACRATH is part of a network that is having some success as it campaigns to ensure Australian companies importing clothing from Bangladesh sign the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety accord.
Anti-Slavery Australia has made a number of short films to illustrate this. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5kekwCOxM2Am92dXI9DYag
Modern Slavery Act
The Commonwealth Modern Slavery Act (2018) entered into force on 1 January 2019. It is designed to combat human trafficking and modern slavery in Australia and in countries from which Australia imports goods. The Act requires companies operating in Australia with an annual income in excess of $100 million to report on the risk of slavery in their supply chains. Companies are also required to indicate actions they have taken to mitigate modern slavery. Two examples of risk of modern slavery for large Australian companies are:
- Rubber gloves manufactured in Malaysian factories and imported for us in Australian hospitals
- Overseas workers employed as contract cleaners can be vulnerable to exploitation