Human Trafficking in NSW Australia

Human Trafficking Offences Under Australian Law


Trafficking in persons includes a range of crimes, including those involving the movement of persons for purposes of domestic or international exploitation. It also includes crimes in which people already in Australia are subject to exploitative practices such as slavery, imprisonment, forced labor, or forced marriage.

Human trafficking crimes differ from people smuggling, which is the movement of people across borders, usually for the purpose of reward, rather than the exploitation of the victim by the perpetrator.

Australia is known as a destination for victims of human trafficking, especially those from Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and South Korea. The federal laws dealing with trafficking crimes in Australia are the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) and the Penal Code 1995 (Cth). It covers a range of crimes, including the use of force to move people into or out of Australia for exploitation. This is different from smuggling, where people are transported across borders, but not for the purpose of exploitation. Crime is shrouded in mystery and most likely underreported, making it difficult to calculate the true extent of human trafficking in Australia.

The National Action Plan to Combat Modern Slavery 2020-25 provides a strategic framework for Australia’s response to modern slavery. This plan articulates the vision of a future where no one is subjected to modern slavery and where the human rights of all people are respected equally.

Victim exploitation

Victims may be exploited for use in the sex industry or other industries or arrangements. Crimes in this area are contained in Articles 270 and 271 of the Penal Code and include the following types of crimes:

  • Slavery
  • Bondage
  • Forced marriage
  • Forced labor
  • Fraudulent recruitment
  • Human trafficking
  • Debt bondage
  • Organ trafficking
  • Crimes involving non-citizens working in Australia without a proper visa.

Consent to exploitation

Trafficking entails the suppression of a person’s free will. None of the offences referring to trafficking require evidence that a sufferer did not consent. This is due to the fact many sufferers do provide their consent to, or comply with the trafficking occurring. Trafficking consists of a number of threatening and abusive conduct, together with direct force, mental oppression, duress, detention, abuse of power, and taking gain of a sufferer’s vulnerability. This definition makes it viable to locate that sufferers had been coerced even in situations in which they gave consent to the exploitation.


Criminal liability

Moreover, evidence, that a person was physically restrained is not required to establish criminal liability.

It is a crime to plan or facilitate the entry of a person into Australia, the intentional entry or acceptance of a person into Australia, or the departure or intentional departure of a person from Australia if:

  • Intimidation or violence are used.
  • Traffickers are ruthless if the person is being exploited.
  • Traffickers trick people into providing sexual services, exploiting them, incurring debts, and confiscating travel and identity documents.
  • Individuals have consented to the provision of sexual services, but traffickers cannot determine what services must be provided, whether they are free to stop providing sexual services, or where the services are provided or where they reside. Deceive the individual as to whether or not to leave the earth.


Aggravated human trafficking

The maximum penalty is 12 years imprisonment. If the trafficker knows that the victim is being exploited, or if the victim is being treated in a cruel or degrading manner, or is in danger of death or serious injury; crime gets worse. In that case, maximum penalty is 20 years imprisonment. If the victim is a child, the maximum sentence is her 25 years in prison.

Here, a person agrees to repay a debt by providing own service or another.

Applies when:

  • Clearly too much debt.
  • If a reasonable amount was not paid for the work and deducted from the debt.
  • If the nature or duration of the service is not properly limited or specified.

Debt bondage

Anyone who deliberately puts someone into debt bondage is subject to prosecution. A crime is a crime if it involves a child or if the victim has been treated cruelly, inhumanly or degradingly, or has been abused in a manner that causes serious injury or death to the victim or others. The maximum sentence is 4 years in prison, 7 years for felonies.

It is a crime to enter, proposed to enter, accept, leave or proposed to leave Australia, or participate in any way in the reckless movement of a victim through Australia, and for doing so may result in deportation. Crime gets worse, if the incident involves children or involves cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or conduct that may pose a threat of death or serious harm to the victim or others. The maximum penalty is 12 years’ imprisonment or 20 years’ imprisonment for serious crimes.

It is a crime to hide or conceal a person who is the victim of any of the above crimes and to assist another person in committing a crime. This crime carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison, or seven years, if the victim is a child.

Key Legislation

Main Offences

  • 270.3(1) Criminal Code—slavery
  • s 270.5 Criminal Code – servitude
  • s 270.7B Criminal Code – forced marriage
  • 270.6A(1) Criminal Code—forced labour
  • 271.2 Criminal Code—trafficking in persons.

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