Wednesday, 17 June 2009

For trafficked people, Government changes put human rights first

President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Catherine Branson QC and Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, praised the federal government’s changes to the Support for Victims of People Trafficking Program and the People Trafficking Visa Framework today as humanitarian and compassionate improvements which will help people recover from appalling violations of their basic human rights.

“With these changes, the Australian Government has provided people who have been very deeply traumatised with the certainty and support they need to recover from their experience,” said President Branson. “They recognise that human trafficking is first and foremost a human rights violation by making victim support available on the basis of need, instead of conditional on whether a trafficked person can assist police.

“These changes, which implement recommendations made by the Commission and NGOs at the 2008 National Round Table on People Trafficking, have put the rights of trafficked people first and ended years of uncertainty for people who are currently on temporary witness protection visas,” Ms Branson said.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick said that the changes to protection visas and access to victim support simplified a complex system to provide stronger protection for trafficked people and their families.

Ms Broderick said the reforms would make an enormous difference to the lives of people who have been trafficked to Australia. First, they will make sure that victims of trafficking get access to victim support, regardless of whether they can assist police. Second, they will abolish temporary witness protection visas and speed up the process for granting permanent witness protection visas to trafficked people, as well as their immediate family. This will end years of uncertainty for people who have cooperated with police and who would face great danger if they are sent home.

“In my role as Sex Discrimination Commissioner, I have met with people who have been trafficked and I know these changes – particularly the recognition of the importance of reuniting trafficked people with their family and the abolition of the temporary witness protection visa - will be of immense comfort and relief to them,” Commissioner Broderick said.

Ms Broderick said the best way to sum up the changes was in the words of a woman who was trafficked to Australia and who had, for years, been left with an uncertain immigration status.

“She said she didn’t have the words to describe how happy she felt – that having a permanent visa meant that she could have security and certainty now, that she can finally move on with her life without fear of being returned to her home country, that she could study, that she could confidently go out and get a job.”

Ms Broderick will deliver the opening address at Labour Trafficking: A forum to discuss trafficking in persons in contexts other than the commercial sex industry at the Australian Institute of Criminology tomorrow.

Media contact: Brinsley Marlay 02 9284 9656 or 0430 366 529