Open evening lifts the lid on modern slavery issue

Peter Devoy and Rebecca Miller at Lower Hutt.

There’s no slavery in New Zealand. Abraham Lincoln and Wilberforce dealt with that issue long ago! Yeah, right! Such a statement of history is the kind trumped up by one who is removed from the reality of struggle against injustice in this 21st century, and in New Zealand. On Monday, July 16, ANZRATH (Aotearoa New Zealand Religious Against the Trafficking of Humans) organised two excellent speakers for an open evening at Sts Peter and Paul  Church, Lower Hutt.

Rebecca Miller, the manager for people smuggling, human trafficking and regional  cooperation and Peter Devoy, the assistant general manager, compliance and border operations, both of Immigration New Zealand, spoke on the issue of “modern slavery”, an umbrella term that covers human trafficking (usually of new migrants), and slave-like practices such as servitude, forced labour, forcedmarriage, the sale and exploitation of children and debt bondage.

Both speakers had time to speak about the issue from their different perspectives with plenty of time for questions from the audience. Canadian Ms Miller spoke of what brought her to New Zealand and the consequent involvement in this issue through the Ministry of Immigration, and Mr Devoy from his years as a senior officer in the New Zealand Police. We were made aware of some tragic statistics:

In 2016 an estimated 40.3 million were victims of modern slavery.

Of that number 24.9 million were in forced labour — a process of deception to ensure industries such as construction, agriculture, horticulture, viticulture, the services and fishing make huge profits.

Nearly two thirds of that number were in the Asia-Pacific region.

Human trafficking and exploitation is the third largest criminal “industry” in the world, earning the exploiters US$150 billion annually.

However, there were only 9000 convictions globally in 2017; it is low risk and high profit crime.

Human trafficking involves (1) the recruitment, transportation, moving, transfer or harbouring of persons through (2) deception and/or coercion for the purpose of (3) exploiting or facilitating the exploitation of the person. It is aided and abetted by people smuggling, that is, the facilitated entry into New Zealand of an unauthorised migrant for financial or other material gain.

The exploitation is particularly unjust because such migrants come for a better life, only to be trapped in poverty and debt by recruiters, agents and employers.

New Zealand had its first trafficking conviction in December, 2016, which saw the culprit sentenced to nine years, six months in jail and ordered to pay more than $28,000 reparation to his victims. As someone among the audience mentioned, he would live more comfortably in prison, than the conditions in which he had his victims living.  Investigations are continuing.

Exploitation happens also with New Zealand citizens, as John Campell’s research not infrequently reveals. Both the Ministry of Immigration, and that of Business, Innovation and Employment have websites worth exploring in order to address these issues.

Complaints of such injustice against migrants or citizens can be made to the Labour Inspectorate contact centre (0800 20 90 20) or to Crimestoppers (0800 555 111) or make contact anonymously at

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