Questions over alleged sex trafficking in Australian mining towns
Police in Australia have raised concerns that the country’s mining towns are being increasingly targeted by sex traffickers.
In particular, they say young women from south east Asia are being exploited.
Paul Biggin, the police district inspector for the Mount Isa region of Queensland, said: “They are working on a fly-in, fly-out basis, two weeks here, two weeks in the next town and so on.
“They are being advertised as available in the local newspapers, and they are coerced or threatened into doing it.”
However, the Scarlet Alliance, which represents sex workers in Australia, says the problem has been exaggerated.
The organisation’s president, Elena Jeffreys, said: “Australia’s anti-trafficking laws have resulted in thousands of raids, resources devoted to surveillance and investigations, but have found very little evidence of trafficking.”
Biggin has admitted that pinning down numbers is very difficult, largely because many trafficked women are unwilling to speak to the police. He said this is sometimes because of previous negative experience with the authorities, in other countries.
He added: “Whenever we have an operation to target them, they come into the station and you can see that they are being controlled mentally and physically and it’s very difficult to get them to open up to authority and enable us to help them.”
Prostitution itself is not illegal in Australia, but individual Australian states have laws regarding pimping and brothels.
Inspector Biggin has just been selected for the Donald Mackay Churchill Fellowship, a grant awarded for research in the field of combatting organised crime. He will use the award to visit other countries to see how sex trafficking is being tackled elsewhere.