Slave Free Seas Calls for Minister to front up
Feb 24th 2012
Calls for Minister to front up
The New Zealand trust that has instigated the arrest of two Korean Flagged fishing vessels in recent weeks - Slave Free Seas - has today made a call for the Minister of Labour to speak-up and prevent any more harm being done to New Zealand’s fishing industry internationally.
This call follows an explosive article released by Bloomberg’s BusinessWeek two days ago, which detailed slave like conditions on boats on our waters.
“What would stop the speculation continuing to build is a clear statement that our government will ensure we clean this up. Not speaking simply fuels the situation.
The government has an action plan that addresses what has now become an international news story - fishing vessels that break the law and hold crews in slave like conditions. They need to tell the world they are not sitting on their hands “ said Craig Tuck spokesperson for the trust and lead Barrister on the prosecutions now facing the two arrested Korean vessels.
“We have made what we believe are helpful and extensive submissions to the New Zealand government and NZ police – along with other government agencies - that include making a recommendation for a multi agency operating protocol be developed as a matter of urgency. This would maximize the ability to secure and sustain victim-witness co-operation in such cases.
How government agencies deal with witnesses and their families caught up in this offending is now highly relevant as we have evidence of stand over tactics being employed both in New Zealand and Indonesia to silence both the victims and those that speak on their behalf. “
It is believed that as many as 2000 foreign men are currently working in New Zealand waters, many exploited labour from poor countries such as Indonesia.
“If we can remove this shameful practise from our waters, we can return to promoting our clean image and our law abiding fishing industry as one of the best in the world. Why wouldn’t we do this? “ Tuck added
Researchers at the Business School at the University of Auckland in New Zealand revealed the first detailed and documented cases of human trafficking in New Zealand in 2011.
The paper, Not in New Zealand's Waters, Surely? documented labour abuses, and in some cases disturbing human rights breaches, on foreign-chartered fishing vessels contracted to New Zealand companies and operating in the exclusive economic zone.
Their work indicated many of the 2000 foreign men working in New Zealand waters are modern day slaves under the UN definition of trafficking, and according to the UN International Labour Organisation (ILO) and European Commission Operational Indicators of Trafficking in Human Beings.
response to this and growing media coverage of alleged
abuses on other foreign owned vessels, a group of New
Zealand nationals formed an organisaton and charitable trust
-Slave Free Seas (SFS) (
On December 2nd, 2011 Slave Free Seas instigated the arrest of a Korean flagged vessel berthed in Lyttleton Harbour, Christchurch, New Zealand, with claims of unpaid wages and allegations of physical and sexual abuse.
This arrest signaled the beginning of an international test case to prove existing laws can be applied not just talked about or ignored entirely. Since then worldwide interest has grown in monitoring developments in New Zealand as a case study in how to confront and deal with the complexities of modern slavery using existing laws and protocols.
The aim, says SFS is to develop practical prosecution protocols and remedies (using private and public resources) that can be used globally to eradicate modern slavery.
Based on the University findings and a growing body of evidence, “this is not a wages dispute”, continues Tuck, “it’s not workplace bullying. It appears to be serious brazen offending by transnational companies and individuals, against International law and domestic legislation. This is a dirty supply chain and dirty dealings in human trafficking against people who cannot stand up for themselves. It looks like a multi million dollar scam, not third world opportunistic crime”.
Slave Free Seas recognizes that this current situation is just the tip of the iceberg. “There are laws, and we want them applied and enforced,” says Tuck.
One of Slave Free Seas supporters is Matt Freidman, from the United Nations Interagency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP) Regional Project Manager out of Bangkok, Thailand
“Throughout the world, there are many fishing fleets that have highly exploitative, slave-like conditions,” says Friedman, Up until now, very little has been done to address these conditions anywhere. The events that are unfolding in New Zealand have now set a precedent for the first international test case on this matter – to draw a line in the sand for the fishing industry to say this abuse will end here. This groundbreaking effort could become the beginning of a much larger movement to address these same issues on fishing boats all over the world. The result of this being? A significant form of slavery will be put to rest forever.”