Last week (1-5 December 2014), Minister for Justice Michael Keenan launched the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking and Slavery 2015-19, a five year plan to provide a new “strategic framework” to coordinate Australia’s response both here and overseas. The plan makes a number of recommendations, including continuing to monitor the impact of legislative amendments made in 2013, increasing awareness raising in the community, and strengthening co-operation between states and territories.
The report deals with human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices.
According to an estimate by the International Labour Organization, at least 20.9 million people in 2012 were trapped in some kind of forced labor, and around 9.1 million of those had been trafficked. The report notes that in Australia, the crimes are “uncommon”, with 247 suspected victims of human trafficking and slavery being identified domestically in Australia between 1 January 2004 and 31 October 2014. However, it is still considered an area of major concern, not only because the experience for victims is so traumatic, but also because agencies believe that the problem is significantly underreported.
Australia is a signatory to several international instruments dealing with human trafficking, most notably the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, the Supplementary Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children and the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery.
One of the “key areas for focus” identified in the report is monitoring the legislative reforms made in 2013. The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Slavery, Slavery-Like Conditions and People Trafficking) Act 2013 (Cth) and the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Law Enforcement Integrity, Vulnerable Witness Protection and Other Measures) Act 2013 (Cth) were introduced last year to strengthen previously existing Criminal Code provisions and to expand protections to people giving evidence in human trafficking trials. Most notably, the amendments also criminalized the arrangement of forced marriages.
Apart from monitoring the legislative reforms, the report also highlighted six more areas that the Government wishes to focus on over the next five years including:
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National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking and Slavery 2015-19, Attorney General's Department, Commonwealth of Australia
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