Visa reforms for victims of human trafficking
Victims of human trafficking will be assisted following major reforms to the Human Trafficking Visa Framework included in the 2015/16 Federal Budget.
The Human Trafficking Visa Framework provides vital support to people when they are first identified as a trafficked person and while they assist authorities to bring the perpetrators of this insidious crime to account.
Minister for Social Services, the Hon. Scott Morrison and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women, Senator the Hon. Michaelia Cash said funding of $2.3 million over four years will be made available for the visa framework reforms and enhanced support arrangements.
“Although the number of people trafficked to Australia for exploitation is small, they are a highly-vulnerable group and the majority are women,” Minister Morrison said.
“This new framework ensures these vulnerable people are provided with the support they require, particularly as they assist authorities throughout the judicial process to help bring perpetrators to justice.”
Minister Cash said a permanent visa is also available for trafficked people who have assisted authorities and would be in danger if they returned home.
“Currently, trafficked people are granted Criminal Justice Stay Visas to facilitate their temporary stay while they assist authorities with investigations and prosecutions,” Minister Cash said.
“They share this visa with other non-citizens involved in the criminal justice process, including alleged offenders. Under the reforms announced today, trafficked people will instead be granted a specific subclass of bridging visa that has been redesigned for their exclusive use.”
Minister for Justice, the Hon. Michael Keenan, and Assistant Minister for Education and Training, Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham have played an integral role in delivering these reforms to further support and protect the identities of trafficked people.
“The announced reforms reflect Australia’s ongoing commitment under the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking and Slavery 2015-19,” Minister Keenan said.
“These reforms have been developed following consultation with non-government organisations under the auspices of the National Roundtable on Human Trafficking and Slavery.”
This exclusive visa subclass will allow government to provide better targeted support to trafficked people. Accordingly, Senator Birmingham has announced that trafficked people holding this exclusive bridging visa will be eligible for the Adult Migrant English Program.
“This will help them to learn foundation English language skills and confidently participate in Australian society,” Minister Birmingham said.
Minister Morrison said holders of this bridging visa will be eligible for Special Benefit, as is the case with trafficked people currently holding Criminal Justice Stay Visas.
“The government will improve social security access for trafficked people granted a permanent visa, by exempting them from waiting periods for a range of social security payments,” Minister Morrison said.
“Depending on their individual circumstances, this will allow trafficked people access to further job and educational services.”
Minister Cash said in addition to redesigning an exclusive bridging visa, the reforms will change the name of the permanent visa used for trafficked people.
“This small but important change will remove any possible stigma associated with the visa’s current title and further protect their identities,” Minister Cash said.