Australian Institute of Criminology

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Executive summary

The implementation of measures to improve and standardise the collection of statistical information on human trafficking and slavery is listed as an Action Item in the Australian Government’s National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking and Slavery 2015–19 (AGD 2015). The key outcome attached to this Action Item is the development of an enhanced monitoring program on human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices.

As part of its Human Trafficking and Slavery Research Program, the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) has undertaken an examination of the feasibility and logistics of monitoring human trafficking and slavery as it affects Australia and the options available to perform this monitoring activity. The ultimate purpose of the exercise was to:

  • develop a conceptual framework and dataset that provides a more comprehensive description of human trafficking and slavery than is currently available; and
  • determine if such a monitoring program is practical or whether other monitoring options should be considered.

The AIC determined six critical steps to fulfil the examination; that is:

  • the establishment and refinement of a conceptual framework, indicator themes and associated indicators;
  • a stocktake and evaluation of data that is collated from relevant government and non-government agencies;
  • an assessment of the data that is needed to support information requirements;
  • configuration of a proposed monitoring program—selected indicators and data sources;
  • the development of a data collection tool and data specifications; and
  • an assessment of the program’s readiness for implementation, including pilot testing.

In this report, the findings from the first four steps of the development phase (defined as Phase One) are described, as well as alternative options for monitoring human trafficking and slavery. Phase Two, which will proceed if stakeholders opt for the enhanced monitoring program, will involve the development and pilot testing of the data collection tool(s) and associated processes.

The conceptual framework

The conceptual framework was based on an Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) framework designed to establish areas of data requirement and monitoring for family, domestic and sexual violence (ABS 2013a). This framework was selected as an appropriate template as it treats crime as a process, incorporating broader themes around the environment in which the crime may occur, the actions used to prevent and respond to criminal activity, and the outcomes of these responses.

The framework comprises six conceptual elements, which were identified by stakeholders as equally relevant to monitoring the nature, extent and responses to human trafficking slavery. These and the associated themes are:

  • Context—The contextual factors that describe the environmental (including attitudinal) and psychosocial factors that enable or counteract human trafficking and slavery occurring.
  • Risk—The ‘likelihood’ that a person or persons may become a victim or offender. Risk incorporates actual risk (ie incidence or prevalence based on known or detected cases of human trafficking and slavery) and perceived risk (or the perception among an identified population (eg service providers, law enforcement, the broader community) of the prevalence of human trafficking and slavery).
  • Incident—The nature of the trafficking event and the victims and offenders involved. The trafficking event is described in terms of the action and means used to recruit, move, coerce, deceive, force etc victims of human trafficking and slavery and the exploitation experienced (eg location, duration, type of abuse, industry working in).
  • Response—The type and source of informal and formal responses that are available to and sought by victims of human trafficking and slavery, and the nature and use of pathways of referral. Informal responses include those from family, friends, neighbours, other employees, clients etc. Formal responses comprise agencies and organisations involved in detection and prosecution, treatment and support, and prevention.
  • Impacts and outcomes—The short and long-term effects on victims and offenders.
  • Research and evaluation—Findings from external research and evaluation activities, and how these inform a more comprehensive understanding of human trafficking and slavery in Australia, and shape responses to these crimes.

Data capabilities

Consultations were undertaken with selected government and non-government organisations identified as already collecting (and in most cases contributing) useable data on human trafficking and slavery. These stakeholders were identified as the most likely primary contributors to the proposed monitoring program and included the Australian Federal Police, Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (AusAID at time of interview), Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Department of Social Services (Department of Family, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs at time of interview), the Australian Red Cross and Salvation Army Samaritan Accommodation. The purpose of the consultations was to gain an understanding of the type, method of collection and purpose of data collected by these agencies on human trafficking and slavery, how these mapped to the conceptual framework and the utility of these data for a monitoring program.

A number of key issues were discussed with stakeholders to determine the feasibility of an enhanced monitoring program.

Data availability

Data availability was defined as whether particular data items were currently being collected by identified provider agencies and the suitability of these data to populate the conceptual framework. Most of the data collected fell within the conceptual elements of Incident and Response. These data represent what is largely recorded in administrative datasets and the purposes for these data; that is, operational and statistical reporting. Data on Contextual Factors and Impacts and Outcomes were largely missing or were in a form less easily compiled as part of a conventional data collection process. Data to measure Risk appeared available but were affected by the scope and representativeness of the available data (and the potential to under-count), and difficulties in linking data from different sources (and the potential to double-count individual cases or victims).

Data consistency, comparability and completeness

Most data are recorded in standardised format and case records were described by stakeholders as largely complete, although episodic data entry did affect point-in-time completeness for individual records. However, the purpose for collecting these data and the recording practices used by individual agencies meant that data will not necessarily be comparable across agencies (thus affecting simplicity and reliability of aggregating multiple- source data) or consistent with data collected in the past.

A further and more significant issue is the absence of any formal mechanism to link data collected across different data systems. Formal linkage keys or unique identifier variables were not used in data systems at time of interview and there was limited scope to introduce such identifiers to data collections. The use of data linkage arrangements is dependent on the quality and comparability of data, and in human trafficking and slavery cases, provisions around victim confidentiality. An inability to link data can affect capacity to crossreference data across and within agencies, and introduces the risk of double-counting.

Consideration for data provision

Conditions and logistics for data provision centred on issues of consent and privacy, the resources required for data providers to collate and prepare data, and current information-sharing arrangements. The need to preserve a victim’s anonymity was of paramount importance to stakeholders in both the provision and presentation of victim data. Among some agencies, the release of victim data was dependent on a victim’s consent, whereas for other agencies, concerns around small victim population numbers and the risk of identification affected the type of information that was likely to be transmitted.

The practicalities of data provision related to the system employed to record and extract data, and the resources available to commit to additional data preparation outside normal reporting functions. For the most part, there was a view that data provision would not necessarily be overly onerous (at least among those who recorded data electronically and with a useable data collection system), as long as data transmission was outside already mandated reporting timeframes and guided by specially designed data collection templates. The process would also benefit from the establishment of a formal information sharing agreement between data providers and data custodians, specifying conditions around data transmission, data storage and data use, including presentation of findings.

The proposed indicators

A total of 100 indicators were identified that could be used to populate the conceptual framework. The indicators were assessed against three measures:

  • that data for each indicators is routinely collected in Australian administrative or similar data sources;
  • that data may be available from other sources (if not routinely collected); and
  • the indicator is used in at least one international human trafficking and slavery data collection.

Thirty-four of the 100 indicators were determined to be the most feasible measures at present (ie data was currently being collected and the indicator had been tested in an international collection) and hence could be confidently included in the first iteration of a monitoring program. Of these, 21 referred to the Incident element (one to Action and means, four to Exploitation, ten to Victim and six to Offender), 12 to the Response element and one to Impacts and Outcomes. These indicators described victim and offender characteristics, the exploitation experienced, criminal justice responses, visa status and some information on victim support.

Options for monitoring human trafficking and slavery

At the time of consultation, there was in-principle commitment from stakeholders for the implementation of an enhanced monitoring program on human trafficking and slavery, with the AIC as the identified administrator and data custodian for the program if it proceeds. However, it was recognised that the realities of establishing and contributing to an enhanced monitoring program need further consideration, with a particular focus on the following factors. To proceed it must be shown that:

  • there is a long-term benefit to the monitoring activity;
  • there is long-term commitment on the part of contributors;
  • the purpose and function of monitoring is understood by stakeholders; and
  • the resources and effort in developing, administering and contributing to the monitoring program are achievable.

Three monitoring options are proposed and will be considered by stakeholders in Phase Two of development. These are:

  • Maintain the status quo—Continue reporting on human trafficking and slavery through annual reports prepared by the Interdepartmental Committee on Human Trafficking and Slavery (IDC; eg IDC 2014). This method of reporting is already adhered to by most of the data providers identified in the study and requires no further resources on behalf of these agencies. The limitation to this approach is that the goal of collecting and presenting more comprehensive data on human trafficking and slavery will not be achieved.
  • Renew the original AIC monitoring report series—Recommence the AIC’s monitoring report series on human trafficking and slavery (see Joudo Larsen et al. 2012; Joudo Larsen, Lindley & Putt 2009) but augment with additional data and thematic analysis identified in this study. The limited scope of the monitoring report series and changes to the content to the IDC report in recent years, however, risks replication of effort between the two outputs and the former would benefit from a standardised data collection process that can be achieved with the third option.
  • Develop and pilot a small-scale data collection—Develop and pilot test data collection tool(s) to collect data on the 34 indicators identified for inclusion in the first iteration of the monitoring program. This process will ensure data collation, transmission, treatment and presentation is streamlined, and lead to the creation of a monitoring report with more context laden descriptions of human trafficking and slavery matters as they affect Australia.

There are both benefits and challenges attached to developing an enhanced monitoring program on human trafficking and slavery. Further consultation will be held with the Human Trafficking and Slavery Operational Working Group and more broadly, the IDC to confirm whether to proceed to the next stage of program development. This stage will comprise the development of data collection tool(s), data specifications and pilot testing the collection tools and data transmission processes.

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