Australian Institute of Criminology

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Organised crime involved in people smuggling and trafficking to Australia

Media Release

07 June 2001

Claims of increasing involvement of organised crime groups in people smuggling and trafficking have recently attracted attention and concern at an international level.

A report released today by the Australian Institute of Criminology considers Australia's response to the crimes of people smuggling and trafficking, and reviews the evidence on the organisers and facilitators of these activities.

In releasing the report, Dr Adam Graycar, AIC Director said "Lucrative opportunities for those able to provide illicit people smuggling services have enticed not only local opportunistic criminals, but also transnational organised criminal syndicates, into the marketplace. Yet details on the criminal networks behind organised people smuggling are not always easy to obtain."

"Evidence suggests that the degree of criminal involvement and sophistication varies, and unauthorised entry of people to Australia is facilitated by a range of operators. These include migration agents and recruiters in source countries, corrupt officials, document forgers, those providing travel and safehouses en route, and various criminal syndicates involved in the organisation of these activities through different regions around the globe. The report finds that in most cases, these activities are facilitated by a number of persons with discrete roles, who operate within fluid and flexible criminal networks."

Australia has adopted a "whole of government" response to people smuggling, as illustrated by the establishment of a joint Australian Federal Police and Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs People Smuggling Strike Team.

"There have been several prosecutions of Indonesian boat crews, and a smaller number of prosecutions of Australian-based facilitators involved in people smuggling. In addition, information sharing with overseas law enforcement authorities has resulted in the dismantling and disruption of people smuggling and document fraud rackets in other countries", said Dr Graycar.

Less is known about people trafficking to Australia, although incidence appears to be low. In recognising this crime, Australia has enacted laws against slavery and sexual servitude under the Commonwealth Criminal Code. Enforcement of these laws is the responsibility of the AFP, yet to date no charges have been laid under these provisions.

Australia has recently signed the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime.