One of the challenges that survivors of human trafficking face is that they often are unable to prove their identity. Traffickers take away driver’s licenses, visas, passports, even student I.D.s in order to control their victims.
In Australia, the Immigration Department is working to help trafficking victims by developing a special visa for trafficking victims (male and female) and their families who wish to remain in Australia. The old visa system, critics said, stigmatized victims.
Victims will now be able to stay on a temporary visa or a permanent witness protection visa, with an assistance notice from the Attorney-General’s Department, rather than a criminal justice stay certificate.
Jenny Stanger, national manager of the Salvation Army’s Freedom Partnership, said the criminal justice stay visa had made it difficult for victims to find work, with some clients’ job interviews ending once they told their prospective employers the name of their visa.
The old visa “put people in a position where your prospective employer may be asking very private personal information about what happened to you,” she said. “The harder it is to find a job … the more vulnerable that person is to accepting [further] exploitative work.”
Many trafficking victims in Australia are brought in from foreign countries to either work as domestic servants, or are involved in arranged marriages that turn out to be slavelike. While trafficking is known to be widespread, the nation of Australia has seen fewer than twenty convictions in the past twelve years. (Australia, like Canada and the U.S., must deal with their government’s own trafficking of indigenous people. As of yet, no one has reached a satisfactory conclusion as to how to do this.)
The new Australian visa system is a way to give survivors a fresh start, even if those responsible for their trafficking are not brought to justice.