Joint Press Release
12 October 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
KOREAN SEX WORKERS HELD AGAINST THEIR WILL IN AUCKLAND IS HUMAN TRAFFICKING – ISN’T IT?
Anti-trafficking organisations are deeply concerned at the handling of allegations into a report that Korean women are being held against their will in an Auckland apartment.
Sarah Scott Webb from Hagar New Zealand says “the attention of both the media and authorities has been focused on the validity of the witness, and not as a possible case of human trafficking. The women involved are reported as breaking immigration laws, rather than being potential victims of sex trafficking.”
Hagar has a long history internationally working with survivors of trafficking, slavery and exploitation, and is also part of a coalition of New Zealand organisations researching the scope of exploitation, human trafficking and slavery in New Zealand. The coalition’s report is due in 2016.
“For several years the international Trafficking in Persons Report has unequivocally stated that we have a problem in New Zealand with people trafficking, not only in the labour industry, but also with sexual exploitation. This case needs to be investigated – and reported – from this angle,’ says Scott Webb.
The 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report states that New Zealand is a destination country for foreign men and women subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking, and a source country for children subjected to sex trafficking within the country. The Global Slavery Index also believes New Zealand is not immune from slavery; estimating that about 600 people are currently enslaved within the country.
“This case is hugely concerning to us,” says Steph Lambert of Justice Acts NZ. “We are currently passing legislation to make it easier for victims to prosecute those who traffick them into or around New Zealand, yet, it seems that the Police are not, seriously investigating this as a trafficking or migrant exploitation case. I believe this indicates one of two things, either a lack of intention to combat people trafficking by the government, or secondly, and more likely, the lack of resourcing and education of officers on the ground, both of which can be solved.” Lambert adds she was personally shocked at the response of INZ saying, “Sadly it reaffirms the presence of disincentives for victims to come forward and work with the department.” She believes INZ should be providing safe avenues for victims to come forward, especially as the success of a prosecution heavily relies on victim testimony. Lack of witnesses, and therefore evidence, is a key reason behind low numbers of trafficking prosecutions in New Zealand to date.
Peter Mihaere, CEO of Stand Against Slavery, places the response to this case in a bigger context. “It is not enough for Government agencies to stand on a conference stage and say they are aware of the issues facing New Zealand, and say they will do something about it. We need to work together—government and civil society—to stamp out exploitation, forced labour, slavery and human trafficking across New Zealand. When agencies continually ‘miss the boat’ like this all we do is perpetuate the idea around the globe that New Zealand is an easy destination country.”
Stand Against Slavery, like other anti-slavery organisations, is ready for Government to intentionally engage with this issue. “We are a small nation and it is actually very easy for us to work together” Mihaere adds, “we are losing ground on something that is very stoppable, but we need to put aside the issues of distrust and get into a war room together and develop strategy, seek the necessary resourcing from both government and civil society, and get on and do what needs to be done.”
For more information contact:
|Sarah Scott WebbHagar New Zealand
Tel: 022 095 1931
|Steph LambertJustice Acts NZ
Tel: 027 256 8394
|Peter MihaereStand Against Slavery
Tel: 021 451 429
Links to the NZ Herald Articles: