Witnesses in human trafficking case feel betrayed

12:09 pm on 22 June 2017

A group of Indian nationals who testified in a human trafficking case say they've been left feeling betrayed and abandoned by the government.

Immigration to New Zealand.

Immigration to New Zealand. Photo: RNZ

One of the group, Jasjeep Singh, said their residency applications had now been declined and the 16 witnesses and their families would be deported in six weeks, leaving them facing threats of violence on their return.

The group came to New Zealand in 2009, and the visas and jobs they expected did not eventuate.

The three men who arranged the deal were charged with human trafficking, but at trial in 2015 were found not guilty. Two were convicted of a lesser charge of making false statements to Immigration New Zealand officials.

Mr Singh said he was told that his family in India would be attacked if he gave evidence.

The fraud investigations unit at Immigration New Zealand was aware of the dangers the witnesses faced, he said, and gave them the impression they could get residency if they testified.

"They know every problem with us," he said.

At the time, Immigration New Zealand told him that his future was in New Zealand, Mr Singh said.

Mr Singh said he felt betrayed and helpless.

"Later they gave us permission to bring our families here," he said.

The witnesses brought their families, including children who have started school, over a year and a half ago, he said.

Mr Singh said the 16 witnesses and their families would have to leave in 42 days.

Stand Against Slavery chief executive Peter Mihaere said it was unlikely Immigration New Zealand would have promised residency, but there was still a good case the group should stay.

"I think the threat is there - I think they've got a case for Immigration to say 'look, the circumstances were a little bit different from the norm'.

"There needs to be some consideration for that, given that they were invited by INZ to come and testify, and they accepted that invitation."

Mr Mihaere said their residency success might have played out differently, if the three men accused of trafficking had actually been found guilty of that charge.

It was strange the witnesses' families were invited to move over, he said, but would now have to be shipped back to India.

"Why would they let them come in the first place, if that was quite a high potential of that happening?"

Immigration New Zealand declined to comment due to impending appeals.