NZ doing its bit to end modern day slavery

Last updated 13:42 11/04/2013

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The Government's decision to ban foreign flagged fishing vessels in New Zealand waters has been held up by a human trafficking expert as an example of how countries can root out the causes of modern day slavery.

Dr Anne Gallagher addressed the Prevent People Trafficking Conference in Auckland today, being held in conjunction with the Salvation Army, Protecting Children from Sexual Exploitation and the US Embassy. 

Gallagher said the international community knew about who was suffering and who was responsible for the ongoing exploitation of workers throughout the world - the difficulty was stopping it.

"We are on the cusp of a social and political revolution that will rival the 19th century abolition of slavery."

She said the link between then and now was the denial of freedom.

However, simply making slavery illegal was not sufficient - freedom could be tricked or coerced out of someone, she said.

Gallagher said she travelled the world holding up the New Zealand government's efforts to curb slavery at sea.

Last year, the Government announced that foreign-flagged fishing vessels would no longer be able to legally operate in New Zealand waters after a four-year transition period. Foreign vessels would then be required to meet New Zealand standards and requirements.

In 2011, all 32 Indonesian crew on the Korean Oyang 7  walked off the ship onto New Zealand shores  alleging sexual and physical abuse.

A New Zealand joint ministerial inquiry, prompted by investigations by Fairfax Media and the Auckland University Business School, found Korean fishing charters were damaging New Zealand's international reputation.

"I am holding up this as a particular example  to address the root causes head on," Gallagher said. 

She was, however, critical that no prosecutions to do with trafficking had eventuated as a result of the present law.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said continuing work around human trafficking was of the utmost importance to the government.

People trafficking is a horrendous crime exploiting the most vulnerable people in society."

He said that New Zealand could be an attractive place for the exploiters of such people but defended the country's prosecution record.

Under New Zealand law a trafficking charge must involve cross-border movement which complies with international obligations to the United Nations.

"We aren't complacent."

The two-day conference, held in Auckland, brought together different organisations that worked across the people exploitation.

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They addressed issues like forced and underage marriage, migrant sex workers and ways to end the human trafficking practices.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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