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People smuggling and trafficking

People smuggling and trafficking

Australia is strongly committed to countering people smuggling and human trafficking. Combatting these transnational crimes requires close cooperation bilaterally, regionally and multilaterally. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade leads diplomatic engagement on these issues and also provides practical cooperation and assistance to help counter trafficking and smuggling in our region.

Australia's success in countering people smuggling and human trafficking has helped to protect vulnerable migrants in our region and beyond. It has helped to uphold the integrity of Australia's regular migration program which brings up to 190,000 permanent migrants and 18,750 humanitarian entrants to Australia every year. Ensuring Australia's borders are secure also helps to maintain public confidence that people welcomed under our migration program do not pose a risk to the community.

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 to instances of human trafficking, and promote safe and legal migration within the region to help divert money from criminal networks. Australia also provides funding to the UNHCR and IOM to assist displaced people, refugees and asylum seekers.

People smuggling

Australia's border protection policy, Operation Sovereign Borders (OSB), has been successful in protecting Australia's borders and has led to a sharp decline in the number of people seeking to reach Australia by sea and the number of lives lost at sea.

The OSB Joint Agency Task Force (JATF) in the Department of Immigration and Border Protection leads a coordinated, whole-of-government effort to implement this policy. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade supports Australia's diplomatic engagement on Operation Sovereign Borders. This includes engaging on refugee settlement; regional processing; cooperation to prevent and deter people smuggling; and securing the return of people who are not refugees to their countries of origin. This engagement is led by the Ambassador for People Smuggling and Human Trafficking. Further information can be found at the Operation Sovereign Borders website.

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

Human trafficking and slavery are serious and complex crimes that result in the gravest violation of human rights, and have a detrimental impact on sustainable development and regional security. The Australian Government is committed to working in partnership with other governments, international organisations and civil society to prevent human trafficking, bring the perpetrators to justice, and protect and support victims.

The Australian Government has taken a comprehensive, whole-of-government approach to combating human trafficking and slavery domestically and internationally since 2004. DFAT's work fits with this whole-of-government response, and complements the efforts of other government agencies.

Australia's commitment to being a regional leader in the eradication of these crimes was demonstrated with the launch in March 2016 of Australia's new International Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking and Slavery. The strategy amplifies our efforts to address human trafficking and slavery by setting priorities for our engagement, enhancing our leadership and coordination, and enhancing our advocacy to promote regional and international cooperation on this issue.

Australia co-chairs with Indonesia the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime (the Bali Process). The Bali Process is the key regional cooperation forum for addressing these crimes in the Asia Pacific. 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.

Australia took on the role of Chair of Alliance 8.7 at the IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour in November 2017. Alliance 8.7 is a partnership of governments, UN agencies, businesses and civil society to achieve SDG Target 8.7 on tackling forced labour, modern slavery, human trafficking and child labour. During Australia's tenure, Australia has sought to establish an appropriate, light touch governance structure; and demonstrate results at global, regional and country levels.

Australia is a State party to the UNTOC and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.


Contact us

Ambassador for People Smuggling and Human Trafficking
People Smuggling and Human Trafficking Taskforce
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

RG Casey Building
John McEwen Crescent
Barton ACT 0221 Australia

  • Phone: (61 2) 6261 1111
  • Fax: (61 2) 6261 2272
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