Human trafficking in Australia is more widespread than most people realise, according to the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC).
Speaking yesterday (18 October) at the International Serious and Organised Crime Conference 2010, held in Melbourne, the AIC's Jacqui Juodo Larsen, a senior research analyst, said Australia is well and truly on the radar for those looking to traffic people, especially into the sex trade.
"Most of what we're seeing in Australia is victims of sexual exploitation, trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation coming from the South East Asia region," she said.
"In particular, we're seeing a lot of women come from Thailand for exploitation in the sex industry."
Research has revealed that hundreds of people are trafficked into Australia each year, with reports of trafficked people working in the construction and agriculture industries steadily growing.
Learning the true numbers of victims is difficult, largely due to the nature of trafficking itself, which often involves traffickers promising the victim a new job and a new life. However, when the victim arrives in Australia, they find themselves working for no or very little money. They often end up heavily indebted to the trafficker, who threatens to report the victim to immigration authorities should they try to leave or refuse to pay their debt.
"It's actually very difficult to put a precise figure on it because trafficking is largely under-reported. It's difficult to detect and prosecute so there's still little that we know," said Larsen.
"In terms of known victims ... there were 113 [or so] in the Australian Government's support program. That's just looking mainly at the sexual exploitation. There [are] also issues around trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation and we could see more numbers there as well."