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In Australia, bid to help trafficking victims

At country's only dedicated safe house, women learn to rebuild their lives after being tricked into sex slavery.

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Behind the doors of a small apartment complex in Sydney, a battle is being waged to help women caught up by Australia's flourishing trade in people.

The country's only dedicated safe house for victims of human trafficking accommodates 10 residents, and counselors work to rebuild trust and self-esteem eroded by the trauma and indignity of modern-day slavery.

Lured by the promise of lucrative jobs at restaurants, farms, or construction sites that have gone begging for workers over the past decade-plus of prosperity, men and women from Asia and Eastern Europe end up being exploited in industries from prostitution to agriculture, and forced to repay exorbitant debts.

Enslaved workers are also employed as domestic servants, working in kitchens or subjected to servile marriages.

Official statistics on how many people are drawn into the trade are unavailable, though anecdotal evidence from charities suggests the numbers are large. The Salvation Army, which runs the Sydney safe house, estimates that up to 1,000 people are trafficked into Australia each year, and charities report that the number of enslaved workers brought into the country is increasing.

"I'm fairly comfortable saying there are thousands of victims of trafficking in Australia across a full spectrum of labor sectors," says Jenny Stangar, the American-born manager of the Salvation Army hostel in Sydney.


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