24 Jun 2024

Australia’s deportation bill risks increasing modern slavery and forced labour issues

Walk Free is gravely concerned Australia’s deportation bill, formally known as the Migration Amendment (Removal and Other Measures) Bill 2024, will worsen the situation for vulnerable people and expose many more to the risks of modern slavery both in Australia and abroad.

A refugee woman hugs her child on Eftalou beach, west of the port of Mytilene, on the Greek island of Lesbos after safely crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey on September 21, 2015. Photo Credit: AFP PHOTO / IAKOVOS HATZISTAVROU.

Refugees and asylum seekers are disproportionately vulnerable to modern slavery at each step on their journey to safety.

This is a result of multiple and compounding risk factors including the loss of social networks, lack of access to basic needs, threats, or actual violence.

This Bill will severely undermine Australia’s efforts to combat modern slavery, despite the recent establishment of an Anti-Slavery Commissioner. Australia held the second strongest response globally, behind the United Kingdom, according to the 2023 Global Slavery Index.

What will the deportation bill do?

Protesters from the Refugee Action Collective March through streets of Brisbane with placards and banners. Photo Credit: Joshua Prieto/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

People in Australia can be stripped of their refugee status and deported to a country where they may face harm.

The Bill would mean people can be jailed for 5 years if they don’t cooperate with their own deportation. This is regardless of how long they have been in Australia or if they have family living in the country.

The Immigration Minister will also have the power to impose travel bans by preventing visa applications from entire countries.

How will people vulnerable to modern slavery be impacted?

The Migration Amendment (Removal and Other Measures) Bill will harm vulnerable people by:

  • Silencing victims and creating barriers to seeking assistance due to fear of criminalisation and deportation.
  • Creating more barriers to access to justice, including by limiting the ability of law enforcement to hold offenders of modern slavery crimes to account.
  • Retraumatising people with lived experience of modern slavery by instituting removal policies which some survivors have likened to the actions of traffickers.
  • Fundamentally misunderstanding the exploitative nature of trafficking by illogically concluding that a person can be ‘deterred’ from being trafficked when they are exploited by traffickers who deny them their free will and agency.
  • Punishing victims if they fail to comply with a removal pathway direction through criminalisation and travel bans.

What can you do?

You can urgently contact your senator to let them know you don’t support the Bill as currently written, and urge your representative to take into account how this Bill will negatively impact Australia’s efforts to combat modern slavery.

A list of senators is available to help you find the name of your local senator and their contact details.