Australian Institute of Criminology

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Future research directions

The AIC will conclude its initial, four-year Trafficking in Persons Research Program in early 2012 and is planning work for future years. Key areas of work being undertaken or considered for investigation include:

  • developing a conceptual framework for monitoring trafficking in persons, providing better data for future monitoring reports.
  • examining trafficking for the purpose of exploitation in non–sex industries; and
  • examining understandings of trafficking scenarios, trafficked persons, offenders, and offending patterns and trafficking in the Pacific.

A summary of these key areas of work is provided below.

Developing a conceptual framework

Accurate statistics on many aspects of trafficking in persons remain elusive. This is not a problem exclusive to Australia; it is a global issue being addressed in various ways. The lack of reliable statistics makes it a challenge to develop evidence-based responses. Research has identified several principles to guide the development of data collection and monitoring: the need to ensure data is relevant, reliable and underpinned by clear definitions and standards and that the information collected can inform research and policy (David 2007; GAO 2006). These principles are also consistent with Australian standards, set out by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO 1998).

The AIC’s research role includes providing a sound evidence base for the Australian Government’s response to trafficking in persons and contributing to the existing national and international evidence base on trafficking in persons and related areas. To this end, the Trafficking in Persons Research Program will develop a conceptual framework to underpin the monitoring and collection of data on people trafficking.

The AIC intends its conceptual framework to act as a guide for data collection, data coding and data analysis. Considerations for a conceptual framework for monitoring trafficking in persons are:

  • context
  • individual factors
  • risks and protections
  • community awareness
  • service support
  • system responses
  • impact
  • outcomes.

The framework will underpin the development of a national minimum dataset—a core set of data that has been identified by users and stakeholders as a minimum to be collected for a specific purpose. The AIC is currently in dialogue with the relevant departments and agencies to determine the variables for such a dataset. The intention is that the next AIC trafficking in persons monitoring report will employ the conceptual framework and attempt to collect data agreed under the national minimum dataset.

Trafficking in the non–sex industries

A range of projects either underway or due to commence shortly will examine trafficking in non–sex industries, offenders and the potential for domestic trafficking in Australia. Brief summaries of each project are provided below.

Trafficking and marriage arrangements

In response to increasing concern and to anecdotal and officially reported evidence of trafficking within marriage arrangements, the AIC initiated a research project focusing on the role of marriage in the trafficking-related exploitation of migrant women by investigating:

  • forced and servile marriage in the context of people trafficking;
  • the use of sham marriages and spousal visas to facilitate people trafficking;
  • the different types of marriage arrangements that may increase or decrease risks of trafficking, such as
    • arranged marriages,
    • marriage brokering,
    • online introductory services, and
    • the ‘mail-order bride’ phenomenon; and
  • the implications of this form of trafficking for Australia, specifically with regard to prevention, detection, prosecution and victim services.

The project involves a review of domestic and international literature on marriage in the context of people trafficking, which will be supplemented by an analysis of case files, interviews with stakeholders (professionals and case workers in government, NGOs, law enforcement and immigration) and interviews with migrant women for whom marriage may have played a role in being victimised. The research will develop the evidence base upon which more targeted responses (prosecuting cases, offering appropriate visa types, clarifying Australian legislation related to trafficking offences etc) can be built.

The project is currently in the data collection phase; analysis and findings are to be completed in 2012.

Trafficking in the construction industry

In light of recent research (David 2010) and a focus on labour trafficking in research and policy arenas, it was clear that sectors identified as ‘risky’ for exploitation among the migrant workforce required further enquiry. The research on the risks and protective factors for migrant workers project in the construction industry will add to the current research on people trafficking. In addition, it will provide an evidence base for frameworks to prevent and address exploitation within the industry. Specifically, the project aims to identify and critically examine:

  • the state of existing knowledge of labour trafficking in the construction industry in Australia;
  • features of and/or trends in the construction industry in Australia that may either make workers, especially migrant workers, more vulnerable to exploitation relating or amounting to people trafficking or protect them from such exploitation;
  • other risk and protective factors that make workers more or less vulnerable to exploitation relating or amounting to people trafficking;
  • existing responses to labour trafficking and related exploitative scenarios in the construction industry (government and non-government);
  • stakeholder perceptions of likely risks and opportunities for labour trafficking into the construction industry in Australia; and
  • key gaps in knowledge on this issue as part of framing research priorities for the future.

The project is jointly funded by the AIC, the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart Josephite Counter-Trafficking Project and the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney. Consultations with key industry and regulatory bodies are underway.

Domestic trafficking

The AIC has initiated research on domestic trafficking within Australia. This is an identified gap in current research which the AIC seeks to address. The project will explore the following research questions:

  • What is domestic trafficking under Australian law?
  • What is domestic trafficking under the UN Trafficking Protocol?
  • Are there elements of domestic trafficking under Australian law and/or under the UN Trafficking Protocol in a small number (eg four) of key cases prosecuted in Australia?
  • What risks and protections against domestic trafficking in persons emerge from the analysis of these cases?

A Trends & Issues paper on domestic trafficking and definitions of it in the Australian context will be released in 2012.

Understandings of trafficking scenarios, trafficked persons and offenders

Understanding offenders and offending

Supplementing and stemming from the review of organised crime and trafficking in persons conducted in the last reporting period, a more detailed project on trafficking offending has been initiated by the AIC. The research draws on two major theories of criminology: rational choice theory (ie individual offenders are rational individuals who respond to factors such as cost, profit and risk) and routine activities theory (ie criminal events depend on a convergence of a motivated offender with a suitable opportunity and an absence of capable guardians). The research will seek to analyse a sample of trafficking cases from the perspective of understanding:

  • the individuals involved in the offending (analysis of characteristics of offenders); and
  • the situations, people and processes that supported and enabled the offending (situational analysis).

The planned methodology includes:

  • review of the existing literature on the key research questions;
  • analysis of a sample of cases to identify data on the key research questions;
  • obtaining data about cases from court submissions, transcripts and reports; interview transcripts, if available; and interviews with frontline officials (government and non-government) who worked/work on the cases; and
  • use of existing AIC data.

A Trends & Issues paper on organised crime and trafficking in persons will be released in 2012 and will be followed by a larger research and public policy paper detailing the study and its findings.

Trafficking in the Pacific

There remains a lack of research on trafficking in persons in the Pacific area. The Pacific region remains an important area for research because of its proximity to Australia. Two papers generated from the first analyses of trafficking in the Pacific were released in 2011. A larger study into this area is being planned for future years.