Stop human trafficking happening in plain sight

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Editor’s note: Footage available on hightail  

On the United Nations World Day against Trafficking in Persons today, the AFP acknowledges that our first responders play a vital role in identifying, supporting and seeking justice for victims of human trafficking, and calls on the public not to turn a blind eye to signs. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic worsens, we are more reliant than ever on law enforcement officers, social workers, healthcare professionals and non-government organisation staff to notice and report if someone may be a victim of this crime type. However it’s not just up to our first responders. Members of the community can help by knowing the signs and reporting what they see.  

Human trafficking is the physical movement of people across or within borders by coercing, threatening or deceiving them for the purpose of ongoing exploitation once they reach their destination. 

Often referred to as modern day slavery, AFP Assistant Commissioner Northern Command Lesa Gale said it is happening right here in Australia. 

“People may think that human trafficking is something that only happens on the TV or in the movies. But it happens right here in our own backyard, and often it is in plain sight.

“While the Australian Federal Police (AFP) is the lead agency for investigating this crime type, everyone has a role to play in stopping it and we urge the public to be aware,” she said.

The Australian Institute of Criminology estimates that for every victim found there are approximately four victims that remain undetected.

In the 2019-20 financial year, the AFP received 223 reports of human trafficking, including; 
•    92 reports of forced marriage,
•    40 reports of sexual servitude and exploitation, 
•    29 reports of forced labour, 
•    28 reports of trafficking in persons,
•    20 reports of domestic servitude,
•    six reports of deceptive recruiting,
•    four of trafficking in children, 
•    three of debt bondage,  
•    One report of slavery. 

Fifty one per cent of forced marriage reports were victims under the age of 18 years. 70 per cent related to offshore marriage and the most vulnerable victims of forced marriage were females between the ages of 15-19 years.  

“Thankfully almost half of forced marriage reports we received in the last financial year, resulted in disruption or intervention strategies that stopped the offence from occurring,” Assistant Commissioner Gale said.  

The AFP continues its work to raise awareness of human trafficking and forced marriage in Australia through Project Skywarp.

The AFP is also an active member of the Interdepartmental Committee on Human Trafficking and Slavery and Operational Working Groups. We work with international partners through the AFP’s international network, Department of Foreign Affairs and other organisations including the Santa Marta Group, to promote awareness for and combat modern slavery and human trafficking.

The general public has an important role to play in bringing these offences to light. Anyone can come across indicators of forced marriage. 

Do you know someone who:

•    has a family history of elder siblings leaving education or marrying early
•    expresses concern regarding an upcoming family holiday
•    exhibit signs of depression, self-harm, attempted suicide, social isolation or substance abuse
•    has unreasonable restrictions from their family such as not being allowed out or always being accompanied
•    made a sudden announcement they are engaged
•    shows evidence of family disputes/conflict, domestic violence/abuse, running away from home or isolation from the community?

If you or someone you know could be a victim of this crime type, please report it by calling 131 AFP (237). 

You can join the conversation online by using the hashtags #EndHumanTrafficking and #HumanTrafficking. 

If it doesn't add up, speak up. Call the National Security Hotline - 1800 123 400.

Read the AFP Annual Report 2021-22

Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation - visit website

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