SYDNEY — Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong has signed an agreement in Thailand to support a new training center aimed at fighting human trafficking.
The training center will give more help to victims of trafficking and will also make them not liable for any crimes committed during time as forced or coerced laborers.
The move is part of an effort between Canberra and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the ASEAN-Australia Counter-Trafficking Initiative. The 10-year program, announced in 2019, is aimed at rescuing victims and ensuring perpetrators are held to account.
The agreement with Thailand was signed Wednesday by Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong.
Human Rights Watch Asia Director Elaine Pearson told local media that despite Thailand’s commitments, it still has a “significant human trafficking problem, particularly with migrants exploited from neighboring Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos.”
Almost 300 cases of modern-day slavery and human trafficking were reported to Australian Federal Police in the past year. However, Jennifer Burn, the director of Anti-Slavery Australia, an advocacy organization, said the true scale of the trade in men, women and children is hard to gauge.
She told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Thursday of the case of a woman who was enslaved with a family in the city of Melbourne.
“She was tricked into coming to Australia,” Burn said. “She held a tourist visa, held in a condition of slavery for nine years in a Melbourne suburb. She was forced to cook, clean and care for children. She was on call 24/7. Eventually she became so ill she was taken to hospital in a medical emergency and the couple there were found guilty of possessing a slave.”
Burn said the perpetrators in the case were jailed.
Modern slavery is a global issue.
Fifty million people were living in modern slavery in 2021, according to the latest Global Estimates of Modern Slavery, a survey by the International Labor Organization, human rights group Walk Free, and the International Organization for Migration.
According to data released in September when the report was released, 28 million people were in forced labor and 22 million were trapped in forced marriage.
Australia has also signed an agreement with Thailand for a four-year plan on military and economic cooperation as Canberra seeks deeper engagement with Southeast Asia.
Source: Voice of America