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People smuggling and trafficking

People smuggling and trafficking


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. Australia's Ambassador for People Smuggling and Human Trafficking plays a lead role in promoting international cooperation to counter people smuggling. 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 only mechanism in the Indo–Pacific addressing irregular migration.

Through the Australian Ambassador for 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 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

The former Minister for Foreign Affairs and former Minister for Women, Senator the Hon. Marise Payne, launched Australia’s International Engagement Strategy on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery: Delivering in partnership on 25 March 2022.

The International Engagement Strategy provides a comprehensive and coordinated framework to inform Australia's international efforts to help eradicate human trafficking and modern slavery, with a focus on the Indo-Pacific region. Australia will deepen its engagement in the Pacific over the life of the Strategy. Our vision is a future where no one is subjected to human trafficking and other forms of modern slavery, and the human rights of all are valued equally.

The Strategy sets out an ambitious agenda of international engagement focussed on three priority areas of ending human trafficking, forced labour and forced marriage, in our region and globally. This includes 40 commitments that guide Australia's diplomacy, international development, multilateral engagement, trade and advocacy work.

Building on existing work, Australia will continue implementing targeted investments with ASEAN, and development investments to address the systemic drivers of human trafficking and modern slavery.

Through the Strategy, Australia will:

  1. Increase understanding across sectors of the impact of these crimes, advocate for action, and identify and highlight the tools available to act.
  2. Support and strengthen the systems in our region that detect, prevent and respond to these crimes.
  3. Address the drivers, both the specific and the general, through development investments and advocating for systemic change.

The principles of our international engagement are gender responsive, victim and survivor-centred, culturally aware, partnership focused, innovation driven and global in perspective, while being regional in focus. The Strategy was informed by public submissions, a gender analysis, and extensive consultation with relevant government agencies, international partners, civil society, academics and business organisations.

It builds on the 2016 International Strategy on Human Trafficking and Slavery and is a key element of the National Action Plan to Combat Modern Slavery 2020-2025.

Australia has ratified the most significant international treaties to abolish human trafficking and modern slavery. Australia has also commenced formal processes to ratify the most contemporary international labour standard to address forced labour. On 17 February 2022, the International Labour Organization (ILO) Protocol of 2014 to Forced Labour Convention 1930 (No. 29) (the Protocol) was tabled in Parliament and referred to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties for consideration. This is the first step in Australia's treaty-ratification process and marks an important milestone in Australia's efforts to promote stronger measures to eradicate forced labour from societies around the world. Australia is committed to progressing ratification of the Protocol as a matter of priority.

The Bali Process

In 2022, the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime (the Bali Process) marks 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 21 February 2022, the Foreign Ministers of Australia and the Republic of Indonesia co-chaired a Foreign Ministers' Meeting of the Steering Group of the Bali Process. The meeting brought together Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand and Thailand and senior representatives of the IOM and UNHCR. Ministers discussed how COVID-19 continues to shape health, economic and social impacts and how – along with restricted travel – these have significantly impacted migration and increased risk factors for irregular movement. Ministers expressed deep concern about recent developments in the region, and the risks for regional security and stability. Ministers also recognised that as our region emerges from the pandemic and travel resumes, traffickers, smugglers and other transnational criminal groups will adapt to the challenge and identify new opportunities.

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 has 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
  • TWorking 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.

Ambassador for People Smuggling and Human Trafficking


Portrait of Ms Lucienne Manton.

Ms Lucienne Manton

Ms Manton is a senior career officer with DFAT and was most recently Assistant Secretary of the EU Political and Strategy Branch. She has previously served with the United States Branch, People Smuggling Taskforce, Iraq Taskforce and at the Australian High Commission in London. She also worked as Assistant Secretary, International Division, at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Ms Manton was appointed by the former Minster for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne on 22 May 2020.

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Contact us


Ambassador for People Smuggling and Human Trafficking
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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