The Immigration service of the Department of Labour has begun a campaign to make people more aware of potential people trafficking, with brochures in various languages and a website identifying possible indicators of trafficking and urging people to report it.
Immigration NZ (INZ) head Nigel Bickle says New Zealand has no evidence of people trafficking but has to be alert to the possibility of it.
The awareness campaign is part of a joint government agency Plan of Action to Prevent People Trafficking that was released in July 2009. Other agencies working with the Department of Labour are the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Police, Customs, and the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Justice, Social Development and Health.
Mr Bickle says people trafficking is modern day slavery, most commonly as forced labour and/or sexual servitude.
“Trafficking victims are often deceived into believing that they are coming to a country for a legitimate purpose. Once in the country their passport may be taken away from them and their movements are restricted. They are treated as commodities and profit is made from their forced ongoing exploitation.”
Mr Bickle says allegations made to INZ of people trafficking have been investigated fully – reflecting the serious nature of the crime – but none have been substantiated.
“Nevertheless, we have to be on the alert for this happening, hence this campaign to raise awareness among the general public and especially among healthcare and other service providers who may come across people trafficking in their everyday work.”
A brochure outlining the possible signs of people trafficking has been printed in six languages – English, Samoan, Tongan, Malay, Vietnamese and Chinese – and will be distributed to community groups, government agencies and organisations such as the Prostitutes Collective and Citizens Advice Bureau.
Mr Bickle says indicators of possible people trafficking include:
•A person’s passport or money being withheld
•Locks preventing a person leaving a premises
•Long hours with no time off to go shopping or socialise
•Little or no pay
•Permission being needed to eat, sleep or go to the bathroom
•A person being spoken for and observed by an ‘escort’ or ‘translator’
•Unusual fear of an employer and authorities
•Signs of neglected mental or physical health
•Rehearsed statements or stories
•Being forced to work to pay off debt
•Threats of violence in the event of non-cooperation.
The brochures and the website encourage anyone with a suspicion of people trafficking to contact their local Police or, if they wish to remain anonymous, to call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Further information on people trafficking, including a summary of the Plan of Action and possible indicators of trafficking is available on the INZ website.