Migrant exploitation cases growing - advocate

1:35 pm on 8 March 2018

The exploitation of workers from overseas in Auckland is prompting two to three complaints every week, the Migrant Workers' Association says.

RSE worker in a Hawke's Bay orchard.

Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

New Zealand's first successful prosecution for human trafficking was in 2016, a case in which Fijians were illegally brought here to work long hours while living in cramped conditions.

At a hui yesterday government representatives and business leaders discussed growing concerns about migrant abuse.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said the government was working to increase the number of labour inspectors by 2020 as well as working on ways to protect whistleblowers.

Association spokeswoman Anu Kaloti said many more cases were going unreported. She said 2020 was too long to wait and there needed to be constant monitoring at work sites.

"We don't have enough resources there to monitor on an ongoing basis," she said.

"From what I understand at the moment, most of the cases that are being dealt with are for whenever somebody makes a complaint. Even then, I think only half of the cases are being looked at."

Rob Fyfe, the chairman of clothing company Icebreaker, said exploitation was becoming an endemic issue, driven by globalisation and extreme poverty.

There was a lot of pressure in the labour market, which could lead to migrant abuse.

"We've seen a lot of media very recently in the construction industry about abuse of our immigraton laws and so on," Mr Fyfe said.

"Labour is in tight supply, you know, we have a relatively full employment market and there's a lot of pressure out there and it tends to promote the opportunity for these abuses to happen."

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