Ecpat NZ: Kiwis in denial about human trafficking and exploitation

NZ Herald 18 April 2018
Training programmes are being launched in direct response to human trafficking and exploitation concerns in New Zealand.

But Kiwi anti-child sex trafficking group Ecpat Child Alert NZ says many here are “in denial” that trafficking exists.

The group is hitting a brick wall with its plans to introduce The Code, an initiative to provide awareness, tools and support to the tourism industry to prevent the sexual exploitation of children.

Despite international hotel chains such as Marriott International and transport company Uber in the United States having signed up for the initiative, Ecpat Child Alert NZ’s emails to businesses in the industry here have been met with zero responses.

Ecpat Child Alert NZ chief executive Warren Ferdinandus said sexual predators were targeting children and youth on the internet.

A survey by the group of 47 sex workers aged between 15 and 47 found the average age for first receiving payment for sexual acts was 14.5 years old.

“There is often an exchange of something happening… goods, money, affection,” Ferdinandus said.

“There is definitely a shift from a physically trafficking to a digitally trafficking of children… we should keep in mind that grooming can also be a pretext to trafficking and exploitation.”

Ferdinandus said the commercial sexual exploitation of children in tourism often took place in hotels and used other travel infrastructure like taxis and tour buses.

“That’s why we believe it is important that we work with tourism and transport companies to keep our children safe,” he said.

Ferdinandus, orginially from Sri Lanka, had himself been sexually abused as a child.

“We, among many, certainly believe that trafficking of children does happen in New Zealand,” he added.

Police advise anyone who is concerned for their child’s safety or believe they are victim of a crime, in person or online, to contact police.

Ferdinandus said attitudes in New Zealand to trafficking were “miles apart” from other western countries, such as Canada and the United States.

“There’s almost like a sense of denial that it is happening, or even that it can happen in New Zealand,” he said.

A Global Study on Sexual Exploitation launched by Ecpat on March 27 found the rise of budget travel and affordable accommodation enabled child sex offenders to move around more easily and have easy accessibility.
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