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Last Updated: Monday, 13 October, 2003, 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK
Australia tackles sex slave traffic
By Red Harrison
BBC, Sydney

Australia has announced a multi-million dollar plan to try to stop the trafficking of women and young girls for sexual exploitation.

The Justice Minister, Chris Ellison, said the government would spend AU$20m (US$14m) over the next four years to stamp out what he says is a thoroughly repugnant trade of sexual servitude

The minister said the government was not able to quantify the extent of the trade.

But independent groups estimate up to 1,000 young foreign women are working in Australia at any one time, many of them in illegal brothels in a trade riddled with drugs and violence.

Most of the girls, they say, are from Thailand, China, Korea, Indonesia, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Some are as young as 12 and all are reportedly lured to Australia by false promises of wealth and forced to work up to seven days a week for months before being paid.

The girls are told they are simply paying off the debts incurred in bringing them to Australia.

The justice minister said Australia would establish a 23-man strike force of federal police able to move anywhere to stop the people traffickers.

Australia will also establish an extra immigration office in Thailand, which the government describes as an area of deep concern.

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