Australian Federal Police (AFP) have blocked 53 people, mainly women and children, from entering into forced marriages, being made to leave Australia against their will and enduring domestic servitude in the past year. It is the first time the AFP has released data showing how many times it has disrupted human trafficking, highlighting how potential victims can be supported by authorities beyond legal prosecutions. It can be revealed more than 75 per cent of victims who were saved are female and more than half are children, under the age of 18. AFP detective Superintendent Jayne Crossling said if authorities are alerted in time, police can act and stop victims from being harmed. “The AFP was able to act to help protect these 53 potential victims because they trusted the agencies that work closely with investigators,” Ms Crossling said.

“We want these vulnerable members of the community to understand that their situation isn’t hopeless, help is available, and the AFP can protect you through a range of measures that don’t necessarily involve arrests and charges,” she said. Not all cases of human trafficking are prosecuted, Ms Crossling said. “Human trafficking is not always a clear-cut situation, and this can be for a range of unique and complex reasons that these individuals are facing,” she said. “It could be that a child’s parents have organised a marriage for them, and they want to be protected from that situation but may not want the relative prosecuted. “Our main message to victims is that we are aware of barriers they may be facing, and we are here to help and protect you. Support beyond law enforcement is available.”

In one case, police were alerted to a 16-year-old girl who was forced to marry a man in a religious ceremony overseas. When she returned to Australia to resume her education, her school told authorities they believed she had been made to marry someone. After the teenager told police she believed the man was preparing to travel to Australia to marry her legally, Australian Border Force cancelled the man’s visa and his plans were thwarted. In another example, a young woman, who was forced into a marriage overseas, was brought to Australia and was allegedly forced to work as a housekeeper and at her husband’s family business without being paid. She was not allowed to leave her home or contact her own family and was physically and emotionally abused by her husband and his family.

Authorities were able to remove her from the home and after she managed to alert her family that she may have been forced to leave Australia. Now, she continues to live and work in Australia safely. Human trafficking and modern slavery cases surged after international borders reopened in February. In the year to June, the AFP received 294 reports of modern slavery and human trafficking up from 224 cases the year before. According to the latest data, there have been 436 cases of human trafficking reported to the AFP between July 1, 2021, and November 30, 2022.Before borders reopened, police warned perpetrators could exploit eased travel restrictions.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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