The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has further fostered an ideal environment for this crime
For Immigration Solutions Lawyers managing director and principal lawyer Anne O’Donoghue, modern slavery is a serious human rights issue in Australia and beyond.
“In utilising a human-rights approach in the legal profession to combat the crime, pro bono work and education is key. Ancillary to this, is the strengthening of existing policy surrounding modern slavery to match the practical realities faced by victims, and potential victims,” she says.
Over almost 30 years in the field of immigration law, O’Donoghue has locked horns with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship in a fight for the right of a young immigrant to remain in Australia for medical treatment. She also defended in the Supreme Court a woman who had been a slave in Sydney for nearly a decade.
Slavery, however, can often slip under the radar. Notably, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has further fostered an ideal environment for modern slavery because so many lost their jobs, leading some to be willing to accept work in enslavement conditions.
O’Donoghue points out that many victims lack the resources or incentive to seek justice for their predicaments. Moreover, witnesses are often too afraid to offer evidence, which can hinder the prosecution of perpetrators.
Thus, O’Donoghue wants to see modern slavery given the gravity of “any other serious crime to acknowledge the absence of humanity present in keeping someone in slave-like and exploitative conditions.”
“We have a long way to go in achieving this as a result of the clandestine and hidden nature of the crime,” she explains. “This is why innovative responses are required by governments, business, NGOs and ordinary individuals to ensure that the conditions which permit modern slavery to exist are stamped out.”