NZ’s sex-slave cases ‘slip under radar’

NZ Herald Aug 4, 2010

No one has been prosecuted in New Zealand for human trafficking but critics say that is only because a difference in definition is allowing cases to slip under the radar. A recent example is the case of a Malaysian sex worker who needed police help to retrieve her passport from her brothel owner. Immigration New Zealand has ruled this does not constitute trafficking. Agency head Nigel Bickle said his officials had visited the central Auckland brothel and spoken to its manager and sex workers, and are “satisfied there were no indications of exploitation”. The Malaysian sex worker, who was in New Zealand on a visitor’s permit but has since returned home, told another prostitute there she had been paid $5600 to come to Auckland, and had been made to work 16-hour shifts with few breaks on most days. Another Malaysian sex worker said she had been lured here with a $4500 cash offer, plus airfares, but was later told that it was a loan she had to repay.

The Department of Labour, which oversees immigration, says New Zealand does not have any known history of people-trafficking and Mr Bickle said the agency had not seen any substantiated claims. No trafficking offenders have been prosecuted here, but anti-trafficking advocates said the country’s clean slate could be attributed to how New Zealand defines people-trafficking. Unlike the United States definition, which includes domestic cases as trafficking, New Zealand recognises only international border crossing cases.