Sex slavery prevalent in Australia

Updated October 10, 2011 14:53:02

There are hundreds of legal brothels operating across Australia but elements of the industry have been tied to human trafficking and sex slavery.

The ABC television program Four Corners exposes the criminal underworld that’s meeting demands for Australia’s big sex industry.

Presenter: Bronwyn Herbert
Speaker: Kathleen Maltzahn, anti-trafficking campaigner; Justine Wang, director for Human Trafficking at Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundaton; Pei-Yu Huang, prosecutor in Taiwan; Chris McDevitt, Australian Federal Police Commander

HERBERT: The trade in sex trafficking is growing internationally and Australia is cemented in this business.

BROTHEL WORKER: I give you some information about the shop.


BROTHEL WORKER: Tonight we only have Asian girls working – is okay for you?

REPORTER: Yeah I’ll meet them, yeah.

BROTHEL WORKER: Okay, the price is half hour ?

HERBERT: Hundreds of women say they’ve been forced to work in Australia as sex slaves.

A woman known as “Rose” moved to Australia to study English at a private language school.

But soon after arriving in Melbourne, she received a phone call from her agent in China – a woman she knew by the name of ‘Taiwan Linda’ telling her she now had a debt of more than $20,000 and would have to work to pay it off.

ROSE: I went blank in my mind. I was really shocked.

HERBERT: The testimony was provided after a police raid at a Melbourne brothel known as Madam Leona’s.

ROSE: I decided to try and leave the flat right then. I moved toward the front door and Kevin physically stopped me from leaving by using his body and arms to stand in front of me.

MALTZAHN: Down the road on the other side of Brunswick Street there is a brothel that hasn’t had any trapping to my knowledge but the owner of that was convicted of child prostitution a number of years ago. Beyond that in Smith Street there is a place that has closed down now but at least one person I know, one woman I know was trafficked there.

HERBERT: Kathleen Maltzahn is an anti-trafficking campaigner and believes the cases the Federal Police have uncovered are only a fraction of the problem:

MALTZAHN: No one’s really looking, no one’s really counting in Australia.

HERBERT: The trail of evidence from many women trafficked to Australia – led Four Corners to the Chinese island state of Taiwan.

Justine Wang represents Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation.

WANG: For that Mrs Chen’s case I think she already traffic at least hundreds more than 100 women.

HERBERT: Justine Wang says the woman known as “Taiwan Linda” plays a big role supplying women to brothels in Australia.

WANG: She hired lawyer in China to help those women pass the language test and then apply for student visa and then using their student visa to traffic women into Australia and force them into prostitution.

HERBERT: Pei-Yu Huang is a prosecutor in Taiwan. He says at least 60 girls have been trafficked from Taiwan to Australia but he says Australian police haven’t requested the evidence:

PEI-YU HUANG (translated): I don’t know how Australia and Taiwan can collaborate on this case but I think it is good if we can share information especially about Yao Yao (phonetic) because she trafficked Chinese girls to Australia and although we have evidence in Taiwan it’s out of my jurisdiction.

HERBERT: Chris McDevitt from the AFP warns clients of brothels be warned.

MCDEVITT: If they knowingly go into these situations and knowingly use somebody who is subject to slavery, they can find themselves at the end of a criminal charge, and I would have no hesitation, and indeed would relish the opportunity of locking anybody up that was actually involved in that knowingly.

Updated with additional article: 10:48 am EST

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 October 10, 2011

Sex, Human Trafficking Thriving In Australia

Phil Mercer | Sydney

Anti-trafficking campaigners say human trafficking is thriving in Australia, with women brought from Asia forced to work in the sex industry.  The warning follows the release of new details of two police investigations in Australia that have identified alleged links between legal brothels and illegal trafficking syndicates.

Rights activists and government officials say most human trafficking in Australia involves women from across Asia and parts of eastern Europe who are brought to work in industries ranging from prostitution to agriculture. Many come from Thailand, Taiwan and South Korea.

Only a handful of traffickers have ever been convicted in Australia, although senior officers have insisted they are starting to win the battle.  Most women who are trafficked say they are reluctant to go to the police out of fear of deportation or because of threats against family members.

Since 2003, specialist units run by Australia’s federal police have carried out more than 300 investigations, and have identified about 150 women working as sex slaves.
Two recent police investigations have allegedly linked brothels in Sydney and Melbourne to international human traffickers.  Officials claim that organized criminal gangs lure Asian women to Australia with promises of places at colleges. But they are then forced to work in brothels, which are legal in parts of Australia. Some women are forced to have sex with hundreds of men to repay debts to traffickers, including airfares and accommodation.

Chris McDevitt, the commander of the human trafficking unit at the Australian Federal Police, says customers who visit brothels where women are forced or coerced into prostitution also face arrest.

“If they knowingly go into these situations and knowingly use somebody who is subject to slavery, they can find themselves at the end of a criminal charge, and I would have no hesitation, and indeed would relish the opportunity of locking anybody up that was actually involved in that knowingly,” said McDevitt.

Rights activists say they believe the number of trafficking cases investigated by the authorities does not represent the full extent of the problem.

There is no reliable information on the number of people trafficked into Australia each year, although various estimates put the figure at around 1,000.

The trade in people is by no means restricted to the Australian sex industry.  Officials say men, women and young children are exploited in many sectors.

Australian police say human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar global business that is second only to the illegal trade in drugs and weapons.