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The growing menace of human trafficking

The Government’s increasing emphasis on securing our borders to prevent people coming across international waters seeking asylum leads us to wonder if New Zealand is being threatened by human traffickers.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse has been saying that our country is not immune to the international menace and that we should assume that our remoteness is a security blanket.

Speaking to his counterparts from the Asia Pacific region at a major ministerial conference held in Bali, Indonesia in April this year, he reiterated New Zealand’s commitment to stop human trafficking and punishing offenders to the “maximum extent possible under the law,” while discharging the country’s international obligations towards the annual refugee intake.

Poverty and lack of economic opportunity make people from developing and poor countries victims of traffickers, some of who are associated with international criminal organisations.

They are vulnerable to false promises of job opportunities in other countries. Many of those who accept these offers from what appear to be legitimate sources find themselves in situations where their documents are destroyed, their families threatened, or they are bonded by a debt that they have no chance of repaying.

According to ‘Human Trafficking,’ a Washington DC based organisation dedicated to combating this crime, New Zealand is a destination country for women who are trafficked from Malaysia, Hong Kong, People’s Republic of China, and other countries in Asia for commercial sexual exploitation.

A US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report placed the New Zealand government in ‘Tier 1’ in 2007 “for fully complying with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.”

The Report said that there was no evidence of government officials who were complicit in human trafficking.

New Zealand uses many laws to prosecute traffickers.

It is important that the provisions of the law are enforced strictly, without the need to consider the circumstances surrounding the arrival of people on dubious grounds.

The law has been enforced in some cases.

Human trafficking also include vulnerable women who are forced into marriages or men who are obliged to be on bonded labour, working in sweat shops, agricultural plantations, or domestic service.

The prevention of human trafficking requires several types of interventions. Some are of low or moderate cost and can have some immediate impact, such as awareness campaigns that allow high-risk individuals to make informed decisions.

Strong laws that are enforced are an effective deterrent.

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