Authorities warn workers over rising exploitation in Australia

Canberra, March 17 (IANS) Authorities have warned people seeking work in Australia about an increase in worker exploitation and forced labour.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) on Sunday urged domestic and overseas workers who are seeking employment in Australia to be aware of being coerced, threatened or deceived into working against their will, Xinhua news agency reported.

According to the AFP, there have been 178 reports of forced labour or worker exploitation, which are forms of human trafficking, in Australia since 2018 to 2019.

It identified acts of physical and psychological abuse, poor working conditions and debt bondage — when a victim is led to believe they have a large debt to their employer they must work to pay off — as signs of forced labour and exploitation.

AFP Commander Helen Schneider said migrant workers looking for temporary work were particularly vulnerable due to their visa status, cultural barriers, social isolation and limited understanding of Australian worker rights.

“Criminals may use deceptive methods to target vulnerable individuals looking for seasonal or temporary work in Australia before exploiting them into forced labour,” she said in a statement.

Seasonal workers are widely used in Australia’s agriculture industry as fruit pickers and packers, farmhands and vineyard workers, Schneider added.

“Unfortunately, criminals do take advantage and exploit workers looking for temporary work,” she said.

In one recent investigation, the AFP charged a man who is alleged to have recruited workers via online advertisements and threatened to have them deported if they sought help from authorities.

In a separate case, a man was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison in January for coercing a victim to work 14 hours seven days a week in his business for two consecutive years.



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