7 Sep 2009

Brothel workers victims of human trafficking - lawyer

10:15 pm on 7 September 2009

Two Ukrainian women forced to work in Auckland brothels are victims of human trafficking, a criminal lawyer says.

Jeremy Bioletti says he has defended one woman who was brought to New Zealand to work as a prostitute by a gang in Ukraine.

Mr Bioletti says the brothel owner took the woman's passport and the 23-year-old was forced to work to pay off a $10,000 debt.

Officials treated her case as passport fraud, but Mr Bioletti says "you'd have to be deaf, dumb and blind" not to see that it was human trafficking.

Last week, Department of Labour immigration manager Steve Watson said there are no confirmed or suspected cases of human trafficking in New Zealand.

Mr Bioletti says he is defending another woman brought into the country by the Ukraine gang.

An organisation that works with sex workers says human trafficking is a reality in New Zealand.

The confidential support service, Street Reach New Zealand, says although human trafficking is hard to uncover, New Zealanders would be naive to think it is not happening here.

Spokesperson Debbie Baker says sex trafficking has become even harder to unearth since prostitution was decriminalised in 2003.

The Depatment of Labour says people with evidence of human trafficking need to contact police.

Nurse claims she was trafficking victim

A nurse from the Philippines who had her passport confiscated by her New Zealand rest home employers has also said she is a victim of human trafficking.

The 25-year-old woman, who does not wish to be named, says she took on a debt with a recruitment company of more than $8,000 to gain her New Zealand nursing registration.

Her employer told her they would keep her passport until the debt was cleared, and refused to allow her to use the document to take a driving test.

The woman says she was told by the Department of Labour to contact police, who told her it was not their responsibility.