Trafficked: victims’ stories of abuse and neglect

They did prostitution 15 hours a day, seven days a week. When they finally escaped immigration officials ‘did nothing’ to help them. Some left being told they owed thousands of dollars, others feared for the safety of their families after they escaped.

Olga and Ivana, not their real names, from the former Soviet Union, were recruited to ‘work’ as flight attendants, having been offered training at an Air New Zeland school. They were told they would later be contracted to an Asian airline. A Russian-speaking escort took them to Bangkok and handed them to a Thai man. A New Zealand man then took them to Auckland. They stayed with the NZer and his mother, and were shown cabin crew training videos. The man told them the NZ school was full and they would have to go to Australia.

Once in Sydney, the victims were taken to a brothel. The women objected, and were told their families would be killed. The trafficker pointed a gun at the women and threatened to kill them. Their passports were taken and they were kept under guard.

Trafficked: victims' stories of abuse and neglect Archdiocese of Wellington They did prostitution 15 hours a day, seven days a week. They finally escaped after two months. They contacted the Australian Federal Police and Immigration in May 2002, but say the police and Immigration ‘did nothing’.

An-Mai (identity protected) arrived in Australia as a student and began doing prostitution to make money while she studied. She borrowed $20,000 from the owner of the brothel to buy books, a computer, and to send home to Thailand. Once An-Mai had borrowed the money she was then told that she had to ‘work’ extra hours to pay it back and that if it was not paid back by a certain time the debt would be doubled. An-Mai became upset by this and when she argued the point she was sent to Perth.

The Perth brothel had many other women who had been trafficked and An-Mai witnessed women being tortured and sexually abused. During her time there the victim was forced to ‘work’ on the Navy ships, and would go for weeks at a time with very little food and no showers.

When things became too much and An-Mai tried to complain, the owner would send her to another brothel and increase her debt. During a 12-month period, she ‘worked’ in brothels in Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth. In that time she repaid the owner of the original brothel between $70,000 and $80,000 and when she escaped, she supposedly still owed another $40,000.

Li-li had not previously done prostitution in Thailand but knew she would in Australia where she went to earn money for a family member.

Li-li was taken to Australia by a non-Thai man. She thought she would be working in bars as in Thailand but when she saw the brothel she wanted to leave. She was told she could not.

Li-li was locked in a house and allowed out only to go to the brothel. The other women were told not to talk to her. She was very isolated.

She was told she would earn $A40,000 in three months. In fact she was made to do 1,000 ‘jobs’ to finish her debt bondage ‘contract’, each job paying $49 towards her ‘contract’. She was under ‘contract’ for eight months during which time she was lied to and hit by the ‘boss’.