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NEW ZEALAND: Tier 1

The Government of New Zealand fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore New Zealand remained on Tier 1. These efforts included investigating eight potential labor trafficking cases, forming an anti-trafficking operations group to increase law enforcement coordination, and conducting a training-needs assessment. Although the government meets the minimum standards, it did not initiate any prosecutions and convicted only two traffickers, which was a decrease from eight offenders convicted for trafficking-related crimes in the previous reporting period. The government did not identify or assist any victims of sex trafficking and identified fewer victims of forced labor than in the previous reporting period.

PRIORITIZED RECOMMENDATIONS:

Increase efforts to identify victims through proactive screening of vulnerable populations.Improve training provided to front-line law enforcement, labor inspectors, and social service providers, including by ensuring officials understand that children in commercial sex are victims of trafficking and ensuring that potential trafficking cases are referred to law enforcement for prosecution.Take steps to improve potential victims’ access to services and ensure government-funded services are suitable for trafficking victims.Distribute materials to raise public awareness of all forms of human trafficking.Amend the trafficking statute to define the sex trafficking of children as not requiring the use of deception or coercion.Increase resources for anti-trafficking law enforcement.Update the national action plan to address current trafficking trends in the country, including domestic trafficking.Improve the content of and distribution of materials explaining migrant workers’ rights and mechanisms for reporting exploitation.Increase coordination with NGOs, social service providers, and other civil society stakeholders on anti-trafficking efforts, including victim identification and assistance.Provide anti-trafficking training to diplomatic personnel.

PROSECUTION

The government maintained law enforcement efforts. The Crimes Act of 1961, as amended, criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Section 98D (trafficking in persons) criminalized all forms of labor trafficking and some forms of sex trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment, a fine not exceeding 500,000 New Zealand dollars ($337,150), or both; these penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with the penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Inconsistent with international law, Section 98D required a demonstration of deception or coercion to constitute a child sex trafficking offense, and therefore did not criminalize all forms of child sex trafficking. The government reported initiating a process to amend this provision, which could strengthen the government’s ability to effectively investigate the sex trafficking of children. However, Section 98AA criminalized all forms of child sex trafficking under its “dealing in persons” provision and prescribed penalties of up 14 years’ imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent and commensurate with the penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government sometimes utilized Sections 20 and 21 of the Prostitution Reform Act (PRA), which criminalized the facilitating, assisting, causing, or encouraging a child to provide commercial sex, in addition to receiving earnings from commercial sex acts provided by a child. The PRA prescribed a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment for the sex trafficking of children.

During the reporting period, the government initiated investigations for eight potential cases of trafficking, did not initiate any new prosecutions, and convicted two traffickers; this was compared with two investigations, five trafficking-related prosecutions, and eight trafficking-related convictions in the previous reporting period. The government primarily focused its efforts on investigating potential cases of forced labor and approached sex trafficking via labor law enforcement measures, rather than pursuing sex trafficking cases as criminal violations. In a case initially investigated in 2018, a court convicted an offender under the trafficking statute in March 2020, for exploiting 13 Samoan victims in forced labor; as of the end of the reporting period, sentencing was scheduled for July 2020. The government convicted a New Zealand man engaged in child sex tourism overseas and sentenced him to six years and six months’ imprisonment. Two offenders convicted during the previous reporting period were sentenced to four years and five months’ and two years and six months’ imprisonment in May 2019. In November 2019, after serving a third of their nine-and-a-half-year sentence, a parole board authorized the release of a trafficker convicted in 2016 for exploiting 15 victims in forced labor. The government also reported that in 2019 the New Zealand Customs Child Exploitation Operations Team arrested and prosecuted 16 offenders for border offenses relating to the sexual exploitation of children; however, it was not clear how many of these involved trafficking.

In December 2019, the government formed an anti-trafficking operations group, composed of immigration authorities, police, and the children’s ministry, to increase law enforcement coordination. As in previous years, authorities continued to report a lack of sufficient resources, and a lack of understanding of trafficking among some front-line officers, as well as high evidentiary and procedural standards, which may have resulted in the prosecution of some potential traffickers under different statutes, including non-criminal labor violations. The labor inspectorate investigated forced labor complaints but worked mainly within the civil legal system, contributing to the lack of criminal prosecution of forced labor crimes. Immigration New Zealand’s (INZ) serious offences unit investigated trafficking cases but were limited to investigating only those cases in which immigration violations were also identified, and police did not report vigorously investigating perpetrators of domestic trafficking, including of those who exploit New Zealand children in sex trafficking. The Ministry of Business, Immigration, and Employment (MBIE) required immigration officers, labor inspectors, and other staff likely to work trafficking cases to complete an online training module on human trafficking. New Zealand Police (NZP) required anti-trafficking training for all detectives and included a trafficking and smuggling chapter in its police manual, and held a training workshop with INZ during the reporting period. Nonetheless, officials reported a lack of trafficking awareness among front line officers. MBIE reported it completed a training-needs assessment to design a specialist training program for border officers and investigators. The government did not report training prosecutors or judiciary officials. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses.

PROTECTION

The government maintained victim identification and protection efforts. During the reporting period, the government identified three victims of labor trafficking in one case, a decrease compared with seven victims of labor trafficking identified during the previous reporting period. The government did not identify any victims of sex trafficking during the reporting period. The government had not finalized its operational framework to outline the process of victim identification, referral, and provision of victim services for government officials, which it began drafting in 2017. The government reported providing training for police and immigration officials on procedures for treatment of victims. The Ministry of Health drafted and distributed written procedures on treatment of potential trafficking victims to all district health boards and primary health organizations. Nonetheless, the conflation of trafficking with other crimes and a perceived lack of awareness that children in commercial sex are victims of trafficking by some officials and social service providers meant some victims went unidentified, and a lack of coordination between the government and social service and health providers may have resulted in ineffective referral procedures. While police reportedly pursued sexual violence-related charges for some potential cases of sex trafficking (often due to lower evidentiary standards and familiarity with those statutes), they did not report identifying victims in such cases as victims of trafficking or referring them to care appropriate for trafficking victims. Law enforcement reportedly had legal limitations on their ability to proactively screen for trafficking victims, including those who are New Zealand citizens, within the legal commercial sex industry. For example, due to regulations prohibiting police from inspecting legal brothels without a complaint, police relied on an organization that works closely with persons in commercial sex to report potential violations. Nonetheless, the government did not report providing training to the organization’s staff on definitions or indicators of sex trafficking, or procedures for referring trafficking victims to services.

The government did not allocate funding specifically dedicated to assisting trafficking victims or provide services designed for trafficking victims. However, victims were eligible to receive government-funded services provided through arrangements with local community groups, and the government provided temporary housing, medical services, employment assistance, and other social services, as well as emergency grants in cases involving debt-based coercion. Nonetheless, some civil society experts reported a lack of adequate services available for child victims of sex trafficking, that services were not easily accessible for victims of labor and sex trafficking, and that government officials did not provide clear guidance to some NGO service providers seeking government assistance. The law authorized the extension of temporary residence visas to foreign trafficking victims for up to 12 months, which also made them eligible for legal employment. The government granted temporary visas for 17 previously identified victims during the reporting period. In addition, foreign victims facing hardship or retribution in their home countries could apply for a residency visa. During the reporting period, the government took steps to reconsider the residency applications of victims denied residency by INZ in 2017, after an immigration tribunal subsequently found that INZ failed to adequately investigate their claims of facing retributive threats against themselves and their families in their home country. The law allowed victims to receive restitution from criminal proceedings. In addition, victims could seek compensation from assets forfeited in criminal cases through civil claims.

PREVENTION

The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. INZ chaired the government’s interagency working group on trafficking and operated a three-person team responsible for coordinating government efforts related to anti-trafficking. Some observers reported the assignment of INZ as the lead agency may have resulted in the government overly focusing its anti-trafficking efforts on transnational forms of trafficking, rather than a balanced approach that also focused on domestic trafficking. The government did not complete its review and update of the 2009 anti-trafficking action plan, initially scheduled for 2017, despite a November 2018 order by the Minister of Immigration that it be completed by the end of 2019. During the reporting period, the government’s consultative group on trafficking composed of four NGOs was disbanded, and replaced with an advisory group co-chaired by two civil society organizations; INZ held an observatory role within the new advisory group. In October 2019, MBIE sought public submissions on suggested policy changes related to its review of exploitation among temporary migrant workers. In addition, MBIE published government-funded academic research on migrant worker exploitation in New Zealand in July 2019. The government did not report sufficient efforts to raise awareness of sex trafficking. However, it maintained webpages and distributed pamphlets to raise awareness of trafficking indicators and victim support and continued to host and participate in forums and workshops with businesses, students, and other community groups to increase awareness. INZ engaged with the airline industry to review trafficking training materials provided to flight crews. The government also reported officials’ appearances in the media discussing migrant exploitation and trafficking helped raise awareness. Nonetheless, observers reported a lack of sufficient efforts to increase public awareness of trafficking, noting low levels of understanding of the crime across New Zealand. The government continued to distribute guides for employers recruiting Filipino workers and to send welcome emails with workers’ rights information to all approved residence, work, and student visa holders in 13 languages. MBIE continued to distribute pamphlets, in five languages, which listed who was able to legally engage in commercial sex and provided information on how to report exploitation, however these materials did not specifically address trafficking. In addition, materials on migrant workers’ rights and employment laws were not clear or distributed effectively, and some workers were unaware of their rights or how to report exploitation. INZ and the labor inspectorate operated hotlines in which workers could make complaints; however, the government did not operate a trafficking specific hotline.

In September 2019, the government announced that by 2021 it would replace six employer-assisted temporary work visa categories with one visa that will require an accreditation of employers to, in part, ensure they take steps to reduce exploitation of workers. Delays in processing migrant workers’ applications to change conditions of their visas, including changing employers, left some workers in exploitative conditions for extended periods of time. Government regulations banned employers who breach employment standards from recruiting migrant workers for periods of six to 24 months and the government published a list of all offending employers on its website. Immigration officials and labor inspectors reported inspecting legal brothels to ensure working conditions complied with the law, and conducting investigations and routine audits in work places that employed migrant workers. However, the labor inspectorate was believed by some NGOs to be under-staffed and -resourced, which they felt limited its ability to carry out effective inspections and adequately investigate exploitative employment, including potential cases of trafficking. Some observers reported penalties proscribed to unscrupulous employers in employment courts were often not significant enough to deter exploitative practices. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in New Zealand. Traffickers exploit foreign men and women from Asia, the Pacific, and some countries in Latin America in forced labor in New Zealand’s agricultural, dairy, construction, viticulture, food service, technology, hospitality, and domestic service sectors. Unregulated and unlicensed immigration brokers operating in New Zealand and source countries, particularly in India and the Philippines, facilitate trafficking by assisting in the process to issue visas to victims. Some foreign workers are charged excessive recruitment fees and experience unjustified salary deductions, non- or under-payment of wages, excessively long working hours, restrictions on their movement, passport retention, and contract alteration. Some employers force migrant workers to work in job conditions different from those promised during recruitment, and victims often do not file complaints due to fear of losing their temporary visas. Foreign workers aboard foreign-flagged fishing vessels in New Zealand waters are at risk of forced labor. Gang members, boyfriends, family members, or others recruit young children and teenagers into commercial sex. Some victims are coerced into commercial sex through drug dependencies or threats by family members. Foreign women from Asia and South America are at risk of sex trafficking. Unscrupulous brothel owners subject some migrants to conditions indicative of sex trafficking, including non-payment of wages, withheld passports, physical or sexual abuse, threats of deportation, and excessive working hours. Some international students and temporary visa holders are at risk of sex and labor trafficking.

U.S. Department of State

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