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NZ must not rest on its laurels over human trafficking

NZ must not rest on its laurels over human trafficking


On Saturday morning New Zealand time, the United States’ Department of State released the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report. This report is the primary diplomatic tool by which the US government engages with other governments on the issue of human trafficking. The Report provides a critical summary of human trafficking as it exists around the world today.

Consistent with previous years, New Zealand has again been awarded a status of Tier 1 – the best possible result for the New Zealand government. This grade implies that New Zealand has appropriate legislation in place for dealing with what the US terms “minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.”

This does not mean that the New Zealand government can rest on its laurels. The report urges the government to increase efforts to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of human trafficking, especially in relation to the trafficking of fishermen for forced labour in New Zealand’s fishing industry.

The continued existence of this form of human trafficking places New Zealand in the company of countries such as Thailand and other South-East Asian countries, where foreign fishermen are subjected to forced labour on board fishing vessels. Similar practices also occur in the wider South Pacific region, for example in Fiji; the Caribbean, in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, and in Africa, in Mauritius, South Africa and Senegal.

It is clear that trafficking for the purpose of exploitation of labour is a widespread phenomenon. New Zealand is not unique in its experience with trafficking for forced labour. While New Zealand has legislation that meets the “minimum requirements” it is clear from the lack of investigation and prosecution that the forms of trafficking existent in New Zealand are not falling subject to the legislation that is currently in place, and are also escaping investigation by the authorities.

Since 2011, Slave Free Seas (www.slavefreeseas.org) has worked to promote the rights of victims of trafficking for forced labour in New Zealand’s fishing industry. Slave Free Seas has developed leading-edge responses to this form of trafficking, utilising novel approaches to pre-existing laws and policy in order to push forward the rights of victims, regardless of the stance of the New Zealand government.

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