The statistics regarding Human Trafficking are staggering - 1.4 million people (56% of world-wide total) are in Asia and the Pacific area; which includes Australia and New Zealand.
The meeting was tightly chaired with many stake holders eager to present their work to Ms Joy Ngozi Ezeilo. Time was limited and opportunities were few. Representatives from many organisations were present, all wanting to present their concerns and outline the work they are doing. Significant time was given to the Salvation Army, World Vision, ACRATH, Scarlet Alliance and the Australian Red Cross. Unfortunately there was not an opportunity for me, and many others, to speak or even greet Ms Joy Ngozi Ezeilo. It was recommended to those of us who were unable to speak to write to the organisations present and to the Special Rapporteur directly, which I will do on behalf of the TSSF.
Some background, major themes and issues raised at the meeting are outlined below.
In Australia, it has long been a crime to bond a slave and recently to engage in forced labour, yet such practices continue in our country.
Australia's current political climate is seeing the blurring of boundaries surrounding refugees and trafficked people. It is politically expedient for distinctions between smuggling and trafficking to be blurred yet the distinctions need to be upheld. The two issues must be seen as distinct as trafficked persons will find themselves not as 'victims' but as an 'illegal' person ending up in Federal Police custody and Immigration Detention. One of the major problems with modern slavery is a lack of documentation. Trafficked people without documentation have limited access to legal representation, linguistic services, housing and health care. Advocacy and representation for trafficked people must be increased through Government funding and social awareness. Anti-Slavery Australia have produced a range of online resources in an attempt to raise social awareness of the plight of people trafficked to Australia (see below for details).
The Salvation Army currently funds, entirely through donations, accommodation and representation for ten women who have been trafficked to Australia. This work is at a grassroots level and treats each person according to their needs. This work is vital but it was recognised as a drop in the ocean in dealing with the victims of trafficking.
World Vision called for the need to continue to hold corporations accountable for creating goods using trafficked people. Corporations must disclose the full nature of their production from the sourcing of raw materials to the production of final product. Consumers understand the supply chain model and the power of boycotting products. Many current campaigns have been successful in raising consumer awareness, for example the production of chocolate.
Corporations need to be continually reminded that there is a direct link between business and human rights. It is critical that NGOs and Governments continue to engage with business to scrutinize their supply chains and to respond domestically to international issues.
The major issue covered at the meeting was the trafficking and exploitation of migrant workers, trafficked people and students in Australia's sex industry. As you can imagine there were a huge range of views represented and emotions were at their peak. Prostitution is currently prohibited in many parts of Australia and where it has been legalized it is inconsistently regulated. Granting visas to sex workers will have a large effect on the trafficking of people from Southeast Asia. The point was made by the Rapporteur that prohibition of prostitution only produces a restructured industry rather than the destruction of that industry. Prohibition will only continue the trafficking of people into Australia for this industry. The legalization of the sex industry does not morally legitimise the industry but rather enables it to be regulated, studied and for people to be held accountable and monitored. The granting of a working visa to sex workers is a political anathema yet may be what is required to care for those caught in the industry and to curb the trafficking of people into Australia.
What you can do about it?
- Be a knowledgable consumer and demand that organisations disclose production processes.
- Support organisations who are actively working to end slavery.
- Engage in public debate and call for greater regulation of the Australian sex industry.
- Pray for those trapped in slavery in our country.
For further information
UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons Ms Joy Ngozi Ezeilo
a recent article on ABC PM