Working in partnership to combat human trafficking and slavery in Australia: Australian Federal Police

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Working in partnership to combat human trafficking and slavery in Australia: Australian Federal Police

Human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices such as servitude and forced labour are complex crimes and a violation of human rights. Around the world women, men and children are trafficked for a wide range of exploitative purposes in many different industries, including agriculture, construction, hospitality, cleaning, sex service, domestic work as well as for organ transplants and forced marriage.

While these crimes have different elements and may or may not involve the movement of a person across an international border, they all involve the manipulation of complex relationships between the offender and the victim for the purpose of exploitation. This conduct can severely undermine a person’s personal freedom and their ability to make choices for themselves.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP), along with other government agencies and non-government organisations, work to address the full cycle of human trafficking and slavery from recruitment to reintegration and give equal weight to the critical areas of prevention, enforcement and victim support. As part of this approach, the AFP continually seeks the support of critical partners, including stakeholders in Australia’s migration industry.

This article provides an insight into human trafficking in Australia and details how you can help unite with the AFP in the fight against human trafficking and slavery.

Human trafficking in Australia:

Australia is primarily a destination country for people trafficked from Asia, particularly Thailand, Korea, China, the Philippines and Malaysia.  A total of 235 suspected victims of human trafficking and slavery have received support under Australia’s Support for Trafficked People Program (STPP). Women account for the majority of these victims, with most having worked in the commercial sex industry. Recently, increasing numbers of men have been identified as victims of forced labour.  Victims have entered Australia under a range of different visas, including student, working holiday and 457 subclasses.

Understanding the nature and extent of human trafficking in Australia is an ongoing challenge. This is due to a number of factors, including the clandestine nature of these practices and the difficulty in identifying victims. Often these difficulties are compounded by the reluctance of victims to seek assistance, which exists for many reasons, including the use of threats, coercion or deception by an offender to keep a person in a situation of exploitation and isolation. Examples of this conduct include threats of deportation, physical harm to the victim or their families, or the requirement to pay off a significant debt. Migrant workers have high levels of vulnerability due to many factors including a lack of local support networks, poor English language skills and limited knowledge of Australian workplace laws and protections.

Indicators of trafficking:

The following points may indicate a person is a victim of human trafficking, slavery or slavery-like practices. If you are concerned about a person’s welfare, you could use these points as a guide to seeking information on their situation:

  • the person appears to be servicing a large debt to their employer or a third party;
  • the person does not possess their passport which is with their employer or a third party;
  • the person does not have an employment contract/agreement, or they do not understand the terms or conditions of their employment;
  • the person is unable to terminate their employment at any time;
  • the person is subject to different or less favourable working conditions than other employees because they are from overseas;
  • the person never or rarely leaves their accommodation for non-work reasons;
  • the person is living at the place of work or another place owned or controlled by their employer;
  • the person has little or no money or no access to their earnings;
  • the person has physical injuries which may have resulted for assault, harsh treatment or unsafe work practices;
  • the person’s activities are controlled by their employer, who does not want or allow the worker to socialise with others;
  • the person works excessively long hours and has few, if any, days off; and
  • the person regularly moves between different workplaces, including interstate.

Referral pathways:

The above indicators in isolation may not be enough to establish human trafficking, slavery or slavery-like practices, however, if you have concerns about the situation of a person or client, the safest approach may be to encourage and/or support them to seek the appropriate assistance and services.

It is important to give people who may have been trafficked information about available services as soon as possible. This should include information about how to contact the AFP, immigration department, specialist non-government organisations or how to obtain independent legal advice. Please see the contacts section below for further details.

If you are considering acting on behalf of a potential victim, such as contacting a service provider on their behalf, it is important to act in the best interests of the person.

Information about the person should only ever be disclosed to a third-party with the informed consent of the person. Informed consent is when a person freely agrees to a course of action (which may include doing nothing) after receiving and considering all the facts and information they need to make a decision.

If you consider a person to be in immediate danger always dial 000. Less urgent referrals or requests for advice can be made to the AFP. Information can also be provided anonymously.



T: 131 237


W:  Information and online offence reporting at

Australian Border Force

T: 02 6198 7559


Fair Work Ombudsman


Australian Red Cross

T: 03 9345 1800



Anti Slavery Australia

T: 02 9514 9660



Other contact points to consider include state police, the Salvation Army and worker’s unions, with these contact details and more in the Anti-Human Trafficking Community resource:

Source: Migration Alliance & AFP

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