29-year-old Indian-origin man convicted of human trafficking in Australia

Australian Federal Police has released video footage to raise awareness of human trafficking crimes in Australia.

The video shows a woman having an argument with a man in the departures area of Sydney International Airport.

The video footage would go on to form part of the AFP’s Operation Eastwater.

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This operation was launched in 2017 and culminated in January in the first conviction for an exit human trafficking offence in Australia.

A 29-year-old Sydney man was sentenced to 21 months in prison when he faced the NSW District Court on January 21.

The man was found guilty of using threats and deception to force the woman and child to return to India.

Operation Eastwater began with Anti-Slavery Australia alerted the AFP that the woman had been forced to India against her will.

It was revealed by the police that the man had in fact just purchased a one-way ticket for the woman to travel from Sydney to India in March 2017.

The woman told police she feared for her life and was threatened with murder if she did not comply with the man’s request.

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AFP notes that after the woman had departed for India, the man contacted Australian immigration authorities.

He gave false information and adopted the identity of the woman in a bid to revoke her legal visa status to try and prevent her from returning to Australia.

Somehow, the woman managed to get to Australia two months later and contacted Anti-Slavery Australia.

The matter was referred to the AFP’s Human Trafficking team for further investigation.

The AFP executed a search warrant at the man’s Lidcombe home in September 2017 and served him with a court attendance notice.

Two months later, police arrested him at Sydney International Airport trying to board a flight to Bangkok, Thailand.

In a Victim Impact Statement provided to the court, the victim told of the severe impact the exit trafficking has had on her life and her young daughter.

“Because of his actions, I live in constant fear and stress knowing the lengths he will go to find us and harm us. This fear and stress impacts my physical, emotional and mental health. I have to be careful about who we talk to and where we go, to make sure that our private information is not shared with him. I am very careful when I leave the house. I avoid leaving the house unless absolutely necessary. Because of his actions and threats, I am constantly worried about my daughter. I am always thinking about how to keep my daughter safe. This is very stressful for me. Ordinary things like going out to the shops or to the park has become more difficult because I fear for our safety.”

AFP Commander Hilda Sirec said victims of human trafficking have many fears and vulnerabilities about coming forward to police, but it is important they know we are here to help.

“Human trafficking is not often discussed or even considered to be an issue in Australian society. It is often unreported, but the reality is that Australia is not immune to human trafficking and victims in our communities are suffering in silence. It is thanks to brave people like the woman involved in this matter that our investigators were able to work with her to see justice done.”

If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, help is available. For information and confidential advice please contact Australian Red Cross. Call (03) 9345 1800 or visit the Red Cross website.