Australian visa system exploited by traffickers

An immigration round table held in Canberra this week has heard reports of trafficking victims earning as little as $4/hr in Australian workplaces. The meeting, convened by Home Affairs shadow minister Kristina Keneally, discussed the backlog in processing that has left over 200,000 people in transitional periods on bridging visas, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s head of Boarder Security John Coyne addressed the round table, warning that flaws in the current visa system heighten risks of trafficking and exploitation.

 “Organised crime are indeed facilitating unlawful migration on a fee-for-service basis, using methodologies from fake identity documents, to gaming Australia’s visa system,” Coyne said

 Agriculture was highlighted as a key high-risk industry, with many workers being sourced from labour hire companies. Emma Germano, horticulture president of the Victorian Farmers Federation, highlighted that many as 70% of workers on farms in some regions do not have correct employment documentation, and some were paid as little as $4 an hour for physically demanding farm labour. “We’ve got growers who are paying upwards of $31 an hour for staff, and workers who are being paid as little as $4 or $8 an hour. That money is going somewhere in between” she said.

The number of individuals on bridging visas has risen from an average of 5-10% to 25% of total immigration. These migrants are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, due in part to limited financial resources.                   

Sonja Duncan