Human trafficking and the large-scale exploitation of migrant workers across Southeast Asia undermine the rule of law and threaten the region's stability. As long as these crimes remain low-risk and high-reward for perpetrators, criminal networks will continue to flourish and weaken the ability of countries to manage their borders effectively. At the same time, it is important to encourage safe and legal migration in the region. ASEAN's economic growth will continue to be reliant on a dynamic and increasingly skilled labour force which can move regionally to take up employment opportunities. As ASEAN becomes more integrated, the region's economic prosperity and stability will require the effective management of the movement of migrant workers within and from the region.
With more than 15 years experience combating human trafficking in the region, and half a decade working on labour migration governance, Australia's strong track record of combating human trafficking in the region and enhancing labour migration governance puts us in a good position to support ASEAN. Australia has a comprehensive whole-of-government strategy to combat human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices. This involves promoting and enhancing regional cooperation to combat trafficking and slavery, including through the Bali Process.
By promoting regular migration within the region, Australia can help divert money from criminal networks, including those linked to people smuggling and trafficking. Australian aid in Southeast Asia works to build the capacity of partner governments to promote safe and legal labour migration. Our programs also combat the exploitation of migrant workers, which leads to human rights violations, distorts global markets and undermines the rule of law. This will ensure the benefits of labour migration are experienced by both source countries (through remittances and skills development) and destination countries (through the filling of labour shortages). We will further Australia's interests in strengthening the region's criminal justice responses to trafficking by reducing the incentives and opportunities for these criminal activities.
Australia-Asia Program to Combat Trafficking in Persons (AAPTIP)
$50 million, 2013-2018
Australia is continuing its decade-long commitment to anti-human trafficking in East Asia through the Australia-Asia Program to Combat Trafficking in Persons (AAPTIP).
AAPTIP strengthens the criminal justice response to trafficking across the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries. AAPTIP focuses on the prosecution pillar of anti-trafficking and strengthens the criminal justice response to trafficking at national levels in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam and in cooperation with regional bodies, such as the ASEAN Secretariat.
The four expected program outcomes are:
- law enforcement agencies improve the effective and ethical investigation of human trafficking cases;
- prosecutors improve the effective and ethical prosecution of human trafficking cases;
- judges and court officials improve the fair and timely adjudication of human trafficking cases; and
- regional bodies enhance regional cooperation and leadership on the criminal justice response to human trafficking in the ASEAN region.
AAPTIP's predecessor programs include the Asia Regional Cooperation to Prevent People Trafficking (ARCPPT; 2003–2006), and the Asia Regional Trafficking in Persons (ARTIP; 2006–2013).
Triangle in ASEAN Project – Tripartite Action to Enhance the Contribution of Labour Migration to Growth and Development in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
$20 million, 2015-2025
The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) is one of the world's most dynamic migration hubs. There are six million people within the ASEAN region who have travelled to other ASEAN nations for work. These workers are helping to drive regional economic growth although often work in sectors of the economy with a higher risk of exploitation. But the exploitation of migrant workers is widespread in the region, with over 11 million victims of forced labour and trafficking.
Through the TRIANGLE in ASEAN Project, Australia is working with the International Labour Organization (ILO) to encourage safe and legal migration within the region. Working with governments, trade unions, recruitment agencies and civil society, TRIANGLE in ASEAN engages at the regional level through ASEAN institutions and on the national level with countries in mainland Southeast Asia. The program helps to reform migration policies and legislation, provide legal and financial advice to migrant workers and reduce the costs for migrant workers of sending wages home. Activities will be focused in six ASEAN countries – Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia and Laos, with Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore and Brunei participating through regional migration forums.
TRIANGLE in ASEAN builds on Phase I of the project (2010-15: $9.4 million). To date, TRIANGLE in ASEAN has helped more than 75,000 labour migrants, potential migrants and their families access advice or legal support.
Preventing the Exploitation of Migrant Women Workers in ASEAN Project
$2 million, 2014-2016
Over the last 20 years, ASEAN has witnessed a significant increase in the number of people, especially women, moving between countries in search of employment. Typically, women in the region are moving to take up jobs as domestic workers, or to work in the entertainment or manufacturing industries. Much of this movement is undocumented, making migrant workers vulnerable to labour exploitation and other human rights abuses.
The goal of the Preventing the Exploitation of Migrant Women Workers in ASEAN project is to contribute to the prevention of labour exploitation among women migrant workers in ASEAN. Implemented by UN Women, the UN agency responsible for promoting gender equality and women's empowerment, the project provides ASEAN policy and decision makers with access to evidence-based policy options for preventing the exploitation of migrant workers. It helps ASEAN institutions and civil society organisations undertake advocacy activities to prevent and eliminate exploitation of women migrant workers, and helps women migrants and public interest groups understand the risks associated with migration and their legal rights.