NZ slammed in US 'slavery' report
New Zealand's use of cheap labour on fishing boats and sex trafficking has been labelled 21st century slavery in a US State Department report released this morning.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released the department's annual Trafficking in Persons report in Washington DC this morning.
The annual report examines the trafficking of 25 million people around the world, with Clinton calling for it "to be labelled for what it is; slavery."
The report's section on New Zealand is one of the longest produced on this country.
However Prime Minister John Key says the Government is already addressing the fishing crew issue and under-age prostitution is already illegal.
Speaking to NewstalkZB he said New Zealand was going to require the end of foreign charter fishing vessels.
"We are moving to completely change that and get rid of those foreign crews and that will fix that issue," he said.
Key said it was not impossible that there were women being trafficked for sex work but he had not seen a case of it.
"I would have thought New Zealand borders are pretty tough in that regard and that is also against the law," he said, saying a prosecution would occur if a case was found.
FISHING CREW, SEX WORKER CONCERNS
The report said fishermen on Korean-flagged boats in New Zealand suffered "imposition of significant debts, physical violence, mental abuse, and excessive hours of work".
The report says women from China and South East Asia "may be recruited from their home countries by labour agents for the purpose of prostitution and may be at risk of coercive practices."
"A small number of girls and boys, often of Maori or Pacific Islander descent, are trafficked domestically to engage in street prostitution while some are victims of gang-controlled trafficking rings."
"The Government of New Zealand made efforts to investigate suspected trafficking offences but failed to convict and punish any trafficking offenders during the reporting period," the US State Department says.
The report says foreign men, largely from Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand, are subjected to conditions of forced labour, including debt bondage, aboard foreign-flagged fishing vessels in New Zealand waters.
"Alleged conditions experienced by workers on these boats - most of which are Republic of Korea (South Korea)-flagged - include confiscation of passports, imposition of significant debts, physical violence, mental abuse, and excessive hours of work," the State Department says.
Pointing to Fairfax Media reports, it says Asians are also "allegedly victims of forced labour on fishing vessels in New Zealand waters."
A whole page of the report uses a New Zealand "reward offered" advertisement as an example of what it calls slavery.
Under a heading "Then and now: fleeing slavery", the State Department published 19th Century American ads offering rewards for catching runaway slaves.
It put it beside a New Zealand 21st century advertisement for a sailor who quit the fishing boat Oyang 70 in Dunedin - a $1000 reward was offered for his capture. Three years later Oyang 70 sank, with the loss of six men.
The US also questions the way in which Pacific Islanders are bought into the country to work in the agricultural sector but "are subsequently forced to work in conditions different from what was stipulated in their contracts.
"Some foreign workers report being charged excessive - and escalating - recruitment fees, experiencing unjustified salary deductions and restrictions on their movement, having their passports confiscated and contracts altered, or being subjected to a change in working conditions without their permission - all indicators of human trafficking."
The State Department says New Zealand fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and it had initiated research into trafficking in the fishing sector and the sex trade.
"(However), it made no convictions or prosecutions under the country's trafficking legislation."
The State Department recommends New Zealand enact legislation to expand New Zealand's current anti-trafficking legal framework to prohibit and adequately punish all forms of human trafficking.
It called for New Zealand to make greater efforts to assess the extent of sex and labour trafficking.
The State Department says it appears that New Zealand law does not criminalise all forms of forced labour.
"Although slavery is prohibited, its definition only covers situations of debt bondage and serfdom; thus, this prohibition does not cover forced labour obtained by means other than debt, law, custom, or agreement that prohibits a person from leaving employment," the report says.
There was no legal prohibition on the domestic recruitment, transfer, or transportation of adults for the purpose of exploitation.
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