Aust criticised in US human traffic report

Peter Mitchell, AAP US Correspondent

A US State Department global human trafficking report launched by Ivanka Trump has criticised the Australian government for not adequately screening vulnerable groups including asylum-seekers and migrant workers.

Australia received one of the best ratings and was commended for "serious and sustained efforts" to combat human trafficking, but the 2020 Trafficking in Persons report recommended numerous areas for improvement.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Ms Trump, an adviser to her father President Donald Trump, released the report at an event in Washington DC on Thursday.

"The (Australian) government did not report screening for trafficking indicators among individuals smuggled via sea before forcing intercepted boats back outside of Australian territorial waters, or among refugees and asylum-seekers held in offshore detention centres," the report states.

"Due to a lack of formal identification procedures for this offshore population, some victims may have remained unidentified.

"Immigration authorities forcibly deported some asylum-seekers who may have been vulnerable to traffickers upon their return to their home countries."

The report also pointed to inadequate screening of "domestic workers and migrant workers, which at times possibly resulted in the penalisation of unidentified victims".

Australia should also increase efforts to train police, immigration officials, and other offshore and onshore front-line officers to recognise trafficking indicators.

Australia and New Zealand were among 34 nations given "Tier 1" status, the highest rating on the State Department's global list.

Papua New Guinea was one of the worst rated countries. It was listed in "Tier 3" with countries including China, Syria, Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea.

"Endemic corruption among (PNG) officials, particularly in the logging sector, continued to facilitate vulnerability to sex trafficking and forced labor among foreign and local populations," the report states.