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NZ's fight against Trafficking recognised

Tuesday 6 June 2006

New Zealand's fight against Trafficking in Persons recognised

Justice Minister Mark Burton said he was pleased that New Zealand's contribution to the fight against trafficking in persons was recognised in a US State Department report released on Tuesday morning (NZ Time).

"New Zealand remains a Tier 1 (or most favourable) jurisdiction, which is the highest ranking that can be given. The report acknowledges the work New Zealand is doing domestically, regionally and internationally," Mark Burton said.

However Mr Burton said that he was concerned about some of the report's characterisations of New Zealand. "This is a concern because those comments then find their way into United Nations' reports," he said.

"Officials have been speaking with the United States Embassy to clarify New Zealand's response to this international problem. We have differences about definitions, some characterisations and the use of some anecdotal information. There is some way to go, but we are engaged in a constructive and on-going dialogue.

"New Zealand, like the United States, recognises that all nations must play their part in combating this pernicious practice. The release of this report provides me with an opportunity to highlight what the Government is doing domestically, regionally and internationally to combat trafficking.

"Although there is no evidence of trafficking in persons in New Zealand, the Government actively monitors its border both on-shore and off-shore to ensure that traffickers are not able to bring the victims of this crime to New Zealand.

"A national plan of action is being developed to bring anti-trafficking initiatives together to enhance our ability to even more effectively guard against this problem. New Zealand also actively co-operates with other governments on initiatives aimed at making it increasingly difficult for criminal groups to engage in smuggling and trafficking," Mark Burton said.

Questions and Answers

What are the initiatives that the New Zealand Government has undertaken to combat trafficking in person?

Some of the key achievements in the past five years include:
- In 2002, new laws were introduced making the maximum punishment for people trafficking 20 years imprisonment, with a maximum fine of $500,000;
- The Crimes Act was amended in 2005 to establish a new offence relating to the trafficking of people under 18 for the purposes of sexual exploitation or engagement in forced labour. This offence will come into force later this month.
- New Zealand ratified the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the UN Convention against Trans-national Organised Crime.
- NZAID has provided funding for projects in Southeast Asia that will assist with anti-trafficking efforts;
- The Prostitution Reform Act 2003 increased the penalties for using a child under the age of 18 for commercial sexual purposes. There were eight convictions under this Act up to March 2006;
- ECPAT NZ developed a website (www.reportchildsex.com) and hotline to enable travellers to report situations they observe of children being sexually exploited overseas;

What is the US State Department Report?

The US Trafficking in Persons report is an annual overview of global trafficking in persons and is compiled for the US Congress.

The US State Department ranks countries according to the level of trafficking activity in that country. Information used to compile the report is gathered from a number of sources including agencies providing social assistance in the community.

ENDS

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