NEW ZEALAND’S anti-slavery laws have been found wanting in a report by the US State Department.
It says New Zealand is a source of underage girls for the sex trade and a destination for foreign workers subjected to forced labour on fishing boats.
The list of abuses is revealed in the department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report released by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Clinton called for trafficking “to be labelled for what it is, slavery”.
The report identifies domestic issues.
“A small number of girls and boys, often of Maori or Pacific Island descent, are trafficked domestically to engage in street prostitution while some are victims of gang-controlled trafficking rings.”
Some Asian and Pacific Island people who migrate to New Zealand to work in the agriculture sector are also subsequently forced to work in conditions not stipulated in their contracts and are charged excessive fees.
In May, the New Zealand government announced that within four years foreign-owned fishing vessels would need to be re-flagged as New Zealand ships, and therefore subject to the country’s laws, if they wanted to continue fishing in its waters.
The move was a response to allegations of human rights abuses, low wages and misreported catches aboard some of the 27 Korean flagged boats in New Zealand waters.
The State Department report says New Zealand does not have comprehensive anti-trafficking laws and 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, customs, or agreement that prohibits a person leaving employment,” the report says.
It recommends that New Zealand enact laws to prohibit and adequately punish all forms of human trafficking. – AAP