28 Aug 2014

Human-trafficking charges laid in NZ

10:14 pm on 28 August 2014

Two men are facing the the first people-trafficking charges to be laid in New Zealand.

If convicted, they face up to 20 years' jail or a fine of $500,000 - or both.

The pair were arrested in Motueka this morning and have been charged with arranging by deception the entry of 18 Indian nationals into the country.

One of the men has also been charged, along with a third man arrested in Auckland this morning, under the Immigration Act in relation to false refugee claims they organised and lodged for the Indian nationals once they arrived in New Zealand.

No pleas were entered and the men have been bailed to reappear at the Nelson District Court on 4 September.

Immigration New Zealand's assistant general manager for compliance and border operations, Peter Devoy, says the prosecution shows how seriously allegations of this nature are taken.

Mr Devoy told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme the 18 men were brought to New Zealand to work in the horticulture industry in 2008 and 2009. He said there are three key elements to the charges.

"Number one is entry of a person into New Zealand, and then an act of coercion, an act of deception or both in bringing those people to the country."

A human rights organisation has said it is no surprise people trafficking has been happening in New Zealand.

Justice Acts New Zealand's executive director Steph Lambert said the organisation has received reports of people trafficking and labour exploitation.

But Ms Lambert said the cases are hard to stack up because the victims are often too scared to contact authorities after being threatened with violence by the traffickers.

She said she hopes the charges will push the Government to do more.