: Survivors of people trafficking

Survivors of people trafficking

Christine Carolan

In 2011, two important reports were released on the human rights and needs of survivors of people trafficking. First, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, issued a Report to the Human Rights Council that analysed the right of trafficked persons to an effective remedy. Second, the US Department of State released its annual ‘Trafficking in Persons Report’.

Australia is described in the US State Department report as primarily a destination country for women trafficked into prostitution, and to a lesser extent, women and men in forced labour and children in sex trafficking. According to that report, ‘the women and girls are sometimes held in captivity, subjected to physical and sexual violence and intimidation, manipulated through illegal drugs, and obliged to pay off unexpected or inflated debts to their traffickers. Some victims of sex trafficking have also been exploited in domestic servitude.’

The Special Rapporteur emphasised that, at international law, states have a responsibility to provide trafficked persons with remedies. This encompasses not only a substantive right to reparations, but also a set of procedural rights necessary to facilitate access to reparations. The reparations must be adequate for the harm suffered. Importantly, the Special Rapporteur found that despite the fundamental guarantee of the right to an effective remedy under international law, there remains a large gap in practice between legal provisions and their implementation in relation to trafficked persons. The Special Rapporteur counselled against focusing too much attention on criminal justice responses. She stressed the importance of implementing the fundamental right to a remedy in a holistic manner.

In discussing survivors’ support needs, the Special Rapporteur referred to the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, article 6(3) of which requires States to ‘consider implementing measures to provide for the physical, psychological and social recovery’ of trafficked persons.

It is the responsibility of the Australian government to ensure that survivors of trafficking in Australia are adequately supported while they begin the process of healing. Survivors must have access to safe and affordable housing, medical care and counselling, and be offered retraining opportunities and English classes. The Australian government’s Support for Trafficked People Program, implemented by the Australian Red Cross, goes a long way to addressing many of these needs.

In her report, the Special Rapporteur developed a set of draft basic principles on the right to an effective remedy for trafficked persons. The draft principles are intended to guide states on the content and scope of the right, and indicate the minimum obligations of states in the realisation of this right. The principles recommend that states ensure that all trafficked persons have a legally enforceable right to obtain compensation, are fully informed of their legal rights, and are provided with necessary assistance to access remedies.

Red Cross now ensures that all people, when referred to the Support for Trafficked People Program, are made aware of their right to claim for assistance under the state-based victims of crime compensation schemes. The anti-trafficking network in Australia is now working to ensure all trafficked people are well supported legally to make such claims for compensation. This has resulted in the past year in about four successful claims, with another 25 claims already in train.

CHRISTINE CAROLAN, Australian Catholic Religious against Trafficking in Humans (‘ACRATH’).

(2011) 36(4) AltLJ 280
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