Australia warned 'discriminatory' migration policies contributing to modern slavery

There are 40.3 million people in modern slavery.

Migrant workers in Bangladesh.

Migrant workers in Bangladesh. Source: Getty

Australia has been warned its "restrictive and discriminatory migration policies" could be driving modern slavery in the region.

A report released on Wednesday by the Minderoo Foundation ranked Australia as the 10th best country in the world at responding to modern slavery.

But despite an overall strong response, the report found harsh migration policies like those adopted by Australia can place migrants in vulnerable situations and at risk they could be exploited.

It said such migration policies were "a key driver of modern slavery".

The report commended Australia for passing the Modern Slavery Act in December 2018, which requires businesses with a consolidated revenue of $100 million per year to report on their actions to mitigate the risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains.

"[But] while Australia is to be commended for its progress, the legislation can and should be strengthened to ensure business is held to account for non-compliance," it said.

Migrant workers on a fishing boat Phuket, Thailand. Thailand's fishing industry is rife with slave labour.
Source: Getty

It also recommended Australia include an independent commissioner to monitor the government's response.

The report was launched at United Nations headquarters on Wednesday, with Australian businessman and chair of the Minderoo Foundation Andrew Forrest attending.

"Global progress in tackling modern slavery has been hugely disappointing," he said.

"Based on best available estimates, we need to free some 10,000 people per day in order to eradicate modern slavery by 2030. This is a burden of government inaction."

There are 40.3 million people in modern slavery.
Source: Minderoo Foundation

The report said there were around 40.3 million people trapped in modern slavery with an estimated 24.9 million in the Asia and the Pacific region.

The top countries taking action against modern slavery were the UK, Netherlands and the US while the three countries taking the least action were Congo, Russia and Somalia.

Published 18 July 2019 at 7:31am, updated 18 July 2019 at 9:06am
By Nick Baker