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People Smuggling, Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery

People Smuggling, Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery


Ambassador to Counter Modern Slavery, People Smuggling and Human Trafficking and modern slavery

People smuggling

The Australian Government is committed to combatting people smuggling and irregular migration. This is essential to save lives, ensure the integrity of our border and maintain public confidence in Australia's migration program. The government has a comprehensive, whole-of-government approach to tackling people smuggling. Australia's success in countering people smuggling and irregular migration has helped to protect those vulnerable to exploitation in our region and beyond. It has helped to disrupt criminal networks and has reduced their profits.

International cooperation is one of the most effective ways to address irregular migration in the region. Australia works closely with other governments and organisations to prevent people smuggling and prosecute the perpetrators.  Australian Ambassador to Counter Modern Slavery, People Smuggling and Human Trafficking plays a lead role in promoting international cooperation to counter people smuggling and irregular migration. The Australian Government engages with regional partners and multilaterally on irregular migration and border security issues.

Together with Indonesia, Australia co-chairs the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime. The Bali Process is the premier forum in the Indo–Pacific addressing irregular migration.

Through the Australian Ambassador to Counter Modern Slavery, People Smuggling and Human Trafficking, DFAT works closely with the Operation Sovereign Borders (OSB) Joint Agency Task Force to coordinate the international elements of OSB across Government. Established in 2013, OSB is a military-led border security operation committed to protecting Australia's borders, combating people smuggling in our region, and preventing people from risking their lives at sea.

Australia's efforts to combat smuggling and trafficking are complemented by our development and humanitarian programs that work to address the root causes of irregular migration, build the capacity of partner governments to respond human trafficking, and promote safe and legal migration pathways. Australia also provides humanitarian funding to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and International Organisation for Migration to assist displaced people, refugees and asylum seekers.

Australia is a State party to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC) and its Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air.

Human trafficking and modern slavery

DFAT leads Australia’s whole-of-government international engagement to counter human trafficking and other forms of modern slavery, including forced labour and forced marriage.  The Government has committed to step up its advocacy and action on protecting human rights and countering the scourge of modern slavery through employing a range of measures at our disposal. On 9 February 2023, the Government announced the expansion the role of the Ambassador to Counter Modern Slavery, People Smuggling and Human Trafficking to rally a multilateral response to modern slavery. The Government is also committed to establishing an Anti-Slavery Commissioner. DFAT is working closely with the Attorney-General’s Department on the statutory review of the Modern Slavery Act 2018.

Under the National Action Plan to Combat Modern Slavery 2020-2025, DFAT developed Australia’s second International Engagement Strategy on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery: Delivering in partnershipThe Strategy (launched on 25 March 2022) sets out Australia’s whole-of-government efforts to counter modern slavery. These include bilateral engagement, multilateral advocacy, and development investments to raise awareness of human trafficking and modern slavery, strengthen the frameworks to respond to these crimes, and address the drivers, including poverty and gender inequality.

Australia has ratified the most significant international treaties to abolish human trafficking and modern slavery.

The Bali Process

In 2022, the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime (the Bali Process) marked its 20th anniversary year. The Bali Process is the key regional consultative forum for addressing people smuggling and trafficking in persons in our region. Overall direction and coordination of the Bali Process is driven by a Steering Group co-chaired by Indonesia and Australia.

On 10 February 2023, the Foreign Ministers of Australia and the Republic of Indonesia co-chaired the Eighth Bali Process Ministerial Conference. The Foreign Ministers of Australia and Indonesia, along with Australian and Indonesian Business Leaders, also co-chaired the Third Bali Process Government and Business Forum. Ministers and business leaders reaffirmed their commitment to work together to address modern slavery, human trafficking and people smuggling. A refreshed Strategy for Cooperation was endorsed at the Conference, and Ministerial Co-Chairs agreed to activate the Bali Process Consultation Mechanism to support members in their efforts to respond to the current trend of irregular migration in the Andaman Sea.

Since its establishment in 2002, the Bali Process has raised regional awareness of the consequences of people smuggling and human trafficking and developed strategies and practical cooperative measures in response. It is focused on both high-level political dialogue, including Ministerial conferences, and practical capacity-building activities at the officials level. The Bali Process facilitates technical workshops and increased cooperation between the 45 member governments and four member organisations: the International Labour Organization (ILO); the International Organization for Migration (IOM); Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

As well as Senior Official-level meetings, the Bali Process supports a Regional Support Office and a number of working groups including:

  • Task Force on Planning and Preparedness – co-chaired by Australia and Indonesia
  • Technical Experts Group on Returns and Reintegration – co-chaired by Australia and Sri Lanka
  • Working Group on Disruption of Criminal Networks Involved in People Smuggling and Trafficking in Persons – co-chaired by New Zealand and Vietnam
  • Working Group on Trafficking in Persons – co-chaired by Australia and Indonesia

In 2017, the Bali Process established a business track, the Government and Business Forum (GABF), that fosters information sharing on best practice measures to improve supply chain transparency, ethical recruitment and worker protection and redress in the region. The GABF brings together Bali Process ministers and senior private sector leaders from the region and has led to the endorsement of the 'AAA Recommendations':

  • Acknowledge the scale of the problem
  • Act by encouraging practical action by business and governments in support of ethical business practices, transparency across supply chains, and assistance for victims
  • Advance efforts to ensure the sustainability and effectiveness.

Further information can be found on the Bali Process website and the Government and Business Forum website.

Contact us


Ambassador to Counter Modern Slavery, People Smuggling and Human Trafficking
International Security Division
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
RG Casey Building
John McEwen Crescent
Barton ACT 0221 Australia

Key documents

People smuggling

Human trafficking

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