Australian Federal Police saved 53 potential victims of forced marriage and human trafficking

More than 75 per cent of the victims removed from harm were women and more than half were children (under the age of 18) *.

The AFP has taken action to protect 53 individuals, including women and children, who were at risk of forced marriage, forced labour and being purposely left overseas.

For the first time, the AFP is outlining details of the human trafficking disruptions undertaken between 1 July 2021 and 30 November 2022.

More than 75 per cent of the victims removed from harm were women and more than half were children (under the age of 18) *.

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AFP Detective Superintendent Jayne Crossling said reports of human traffic were often received after an incident, however, when alerted earlier, the AFP was often able to act to protect victims.

“The AFP was able to act to help protect these 53 potential victims because they trusted, or the agencies that work closely with investigators, trust the AFP,’’

Det. Supt Crossling said.

“Our priority is the well-being and safety of victims.

“We want these vulnerable members of the community to understand that their situation isn’t hopeless, help is available and the AFP can protect you through a range of measures that don’t necessarily involve arrests and charges.”

Intervention measures can include the removal of victims from harm, working with partner agencies to provide safe and secure accommodation, placing restrictions on domestic and international travel, intervention orders and preventative education in the community about Australian laws and peoples’ rights, to prevent all forms of trafficking from occurring. 

The AFP intervened to protect children and adults from forced marriages, removal from Australia against their will – known as exit trafficking – and domestic servitude situations.

The disruption capability remains a crucial aspect of the AFP’s work in human trafficking, with official reports to police reaching 436 within the same time period (1 July 2021 – 30 November 2022).

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Det Supt Crossling said in one recent case, the AFP quickly intervened after receiving information that a mother and child were being forced to leave Australia against their will.

“We were able to intervene to remove these people from harm and by working with our government and non-government partners, we have offered them ongoing protection and support to safely move on with their lives.”

She said not all matters could proceed to charges or prosecution due to a number of reasons, including instances where it was not in the best interest of the victim.

“Human trafficking is not always a clear-cut situation – and this can be for a range of unique and complex reasons that these individuals are facing,” she said.

“It could be that a child’s parents have organised a marriage for them and they want to be protected from that situation but may not want the relative prosecuted.

“Our main message to victims is that we are aware of barriers they may be facing and we are here to help and protect you. Support beyond law enforcement is available.”

What AFP has done

Forced Marriage Disruption:

  • In 2022, the AFP intervened to protect a young woman who had just arrived in Australia from South Asia as an Asylum Seeker.
  • The woman was being threatened by a family member to return to her country of origin to be married.
  • The woman approached the AFP and indicated she did not want to be married and was fearful for her safety because she wanted to stay and study in Australia.
  • The woman was safely relocated to new accommodation.
  • The AFP placed a travel alert on the victim to prevent her being forced to travel overseas and be married against her will. A subsequent Intervention Order was placed on the family member who was threatening to harm the victim, thanks to assistance from state police.
  • In addition, the AFP spoke to family members involved to educate them about Australian laws relating to forced marriage and human trafficking.

Domestic Servitude Disruption:

  • In 2022, a young woman living in Australia – who had previously been forced into marriage overseas – approached a trusted partner agency for assistance.
  • The woman was brought to Australia to live with her husband and his family and allegedly became a victim of domestic servitude.
  • The victim was forced to work as a housekeeper and at the family’s business without payment, while also being prevented from leaving the family home and contacting her own family in her home country.
  • The victim was emotionally and physically abused by her husband and his family. They manipulated her to use the woman’s visa status against her, threatening to send her to her home country against her will if she did not accede to their demands.
  • The victim was able to notify her family that she was being forced to leave Australia, which sparked intervention by the AFP and state police.
  • Police removed the victim from the home and relocated her to safe accommodation.
  • She received ongoing assistance from the Support for Trafficked People Program.
  • The woman now lives and works in Australia without any further contact with her ex-husband and his family.

Forced Marriage Disruption:

  • In 2022, the AFP became aware of a teenage girl living in Australia who had been forced into a religious marriage ceremony overseas when she was 16 years old.
  • The girl returned to Australia to continue her education.
  • Her school alerted authorities after they received a report that she had been forced into a marriage overseas.
  • The victim told police the man she was forced to marry was preparing to travel to Australia.
  • The victim feared she would be forced into a legal marriage with the man upon his arrival in Australia.
  • The AFP moved to share this information with Australian Border Force officials. ABF cancelled the man’s visa and he was prevented from entering the country.

Exit Trafficking Disruption:

  • In 2022, the AFP was alerted that a man had organised an overseas trip for his family but that his wife feared he was planning to force her and her child to leave Australia permanently.
  • The AFP met the woman and advised her of her rights and assistance that could be provided if she decided to travel but was prevented from returning home.
  • AFP officers also spoke to her husband to advise him of Australian laws.
  • The woman decided to go on the trip and the AFP is working with international partners to monitor the situation.