UN official urges human trafficking unit

Accused ...  police allege Mr Glover advertised child prostitution services in the local paper

A UN special rapporteur believes a specialist anti-trafficking force is needed in Victoria. Photo: Kitty Hill

A SENIOR United Nations official says Victoria Police should establish a specialist anti-trafficking force and believes the state’s brothel oversight system has failed.

The UN special rapporteur on human trafficking Joy Ezeilo has spoken to federal and state police about the case of Abraham Papo, who was killed outside a South Melbourne brothel in 2009. Police were told he was trying to rescue a woman from slavery. His killer has never been charged and the brothel manager was later granted the licence to a Richmond brothel.

Professor Ezeilo said the case was ”heart-rending” and she would follow the progress of ongoing investigations.

”The lady who allegedly has been a slave and he was trying to rescue, we want to ensure that she is protected. It’s something I will continue to keep an eye on.”

She would not pre-empt the outcome of investigations but said: ”I believe that once something comes to the attention of the authority, it is their place to actually proceed to withdraw the licence of an operator who has trafficked [women].

”Human trafficking is a heinous crime and there is an international obligation on the Australian government to criminalise trafficking, to prosecute and punish traffickers.”

She said the state’s brothel oversight system had failed because Consumer Affairs, the lead agency in charge of brothel regulation, was not well-equipped to investigate trafficking or deal with victims.

She was hopeful that the Baillieu government’s proposal to put police in charge would improve the situation but said specialist state police units were needed in Victoria, and other states, to target the crime.

”There is no clearly delineated responsibilities when it comes to combating trafficking … They need to strengthen their monitoring work. The problem is the relationship between the Commonwealth and the states. At the federal level [an anti-trafficking police team] exists but there is no corresponding unit at the state level.”

Professor Ezeilo’s final recommendations will be submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council in June but she made several interim recommendations.

Australia had considerable resources to combat trafficking and she welcomed the government’s decision last week to strengthen anti-trafficking laws.

But she said there had been few successful prosecutions for the crime and urged the government to provide continuing support regardless of a victim’s ability to help police. Victims should be compensated under a national system, she said.

”Many of them have been victims of sexual violence, physical violence, mental torture … they don’t even know who they are any more.”

Most law enforcement had focused on sex trafficking but she thought more attention was needed to address trafficking of farm and construction workers, and marriage trafficking. The government should create a specialist agency and anti-trafficking advocate under the Attorney-General’s Department to co-ordinate anti-trafficking efforts.

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