[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

NEW ZEALAND (TIER 1)   [Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]

New Zealand is a source country for underage girls trafficked internally for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. It is also reportedly a destination country for women from Hong Kong, Thailand, Taiwan, the People’s Republic of China, Eastern Europe, and other Asian countries trafficked into forced prostitution. Very few minors are found in prostitution in legal or illegal brothels. Some underage girls engage in prostitution occasionally on the street without the obvious control of a third party, while other girls engaging in prostitution are tightly controlled by local gangs. A number of Asian women migrate voluntarily to New Zealand to work in the legal sex trade, although it is illegal for them to do so. Reports indicate that traffickers subsequently coerce them to work against their will in exploitive situations or by threatening them with abuses of the law like deportation or jail. Unskilled Asians and Pacific Islanders migrate to New Zealand voluntarily to work legally or illegally in the agricultural sector, and women from the Philippines migrate legally to work as nurses. Some of these workers report that manpower agencies placed them in positions of involuntary servitude or debt bondage by charging them escalating and unlimited recruiting fees, imposing unjustified salary deductions on them, restricting their travel by confiscating their passports, and significantly altering contracts or working conditions without their agreement. Relative to the population of New Zealand, the estimated number of trafficking victims is modest, although no research has been conducted to determine the full extent of the trafficking problem in New Zealand.

The Government of New Zealand fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. New Zealand’s laws prohibit all forms of human trafficking, and the government funds and participates in international anti-trafficking initiatives. It offers an extensive network of protective services to internal and transnational trafficking victims, regardless of whether they are recognized as trafficking victims. It is likely, however, that foreigners in New Zealand exploited in forced labor and the commercial sex trade have not been identified by the government as trafficking victims.

Recommendations for New Zealand: Consider amending relevant laws to provide for minimum sentences for trafficking crimes, including the internal trafficking of children for commercial sexual exploitation; develop and implement a visible anti-trafficking awareness campaign directed at clients of the legal sex trade; and institute more effective formal procedures for law enforcement officials to proactively identify trafficking victims in vulnerable populations such as women and children engaged in prostitution and migrant laborers.

The Government of New Zealand made uneven progress in law enforcement efforts against trafficking during the past year. New Zealand prohibits transnational sex and labor trafficking under Part 5 and various amendments of the Crimes Act of 1961, yet it has prosecuted no offenses under this law. Laws against rape, abduction, assault, kidnapping, child sexual abuse, sexual slavery, the receipt of financial gain from exploiting children in prostitution, and labor exploitation prohibit forms of internal trafficking, but such crimes are not specifically included within the anti-trafficking provisions of the Crimes Act. Sufficiently stringent maximum penalties of 20 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of $250,000 under the above statutes are commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes. Although the mandatory minimum sentence prescribed as punishment for rape is eight years, New Zealand law has no such minimum penalties prescribed for either transnational trafficking offenses or the commercial sexual exploitation of a child domestically. During 2008, law enforcement officers made 21 compliance visits to brothels, homes and premises used for the sex industry and found nine foreigners illegally working in prostitution. Four of the women were processed for deportation, three left voluntarily, and two were allowed to remain in New Zealand. Law enforcement officers who interviewed the women did not uncover evidence of labor exploitation, and could not determine whether they were victims of sex trafficking. In July, a brothel owner from Christchurch became the first person charged under a law from 2006 banning sexual slavery. Two girls, ages 16 and 17, were found exploited in his brothel for more than a year. The prosecution is pending. Authorities charged a New Plymouth brothel owner in December with several offenses related to “employing” a 15-year-old girl as a prostitute for six months in 2005. Also in December, the Tauranga District Court sentenced a Bay of Plenty man to 27 months' imprisonment for assisting and receiving earnings from the prostitution of his 15-year-old girlfriend in 2006 and 2007. Police charged a 47-year old Auckland man with facilitating and profiting from the prostitution of underage children in February 2009. The government conducted 264 agricultural labor compliance checks in 2008. Although they received complaints of labor exploitation in agricultural work over several years, labor officials did not believe the situations indicated trafficking and opened no investigations or prosecutions in relation to the complaints.

The Government of New Zealand provides strong support and social services for victims of all crimes, including trafficking, through the New Zealand Council of Victim Support Groups. Under the Victim's Rights Act of 2002 police attend to victims’ immediate welfare needs, such as food and shelter. The law currently allows foreign victims temporary legal residence and relief from prosecution for immigration offenses, and the Interagency Working Group (IWG) is considering a specific immigration status for trafficking victims and longer-term support services in the national plan of action. The government offers support services for children involved in, or at risk of, commercial sexual exploitation. No identified victims were jailed, fined, or deported. It is possible, however, that foreigners were not identified by police and immigration officials as possible trafficking victims. New Zealand significantly contributed to victim protection programs in the Mekong Sub-Region and the Pacific Island region. No victims of trafficking were proactively identified by the government during the reporting period, besides the aforementioned children found exploited in New Zealand’s commercial sex trade.

The Government of New Zealand demonstrated inconsistent efforts to prevent human trafficking. During the year, it did not run campaigns to raise public awareness of trafficking risks, nor did it take steps to reduce demand for commercial sex acts. It did make efforts, however, to educate officials on trafficking and their obligations under the laws and included funding for anti-traficking awareness campaigns in next year’s budget. The IWG, as part of the national plan of action process, worked with NGOs and civil society, and published its activities on a Ministry web site. An assumption that all women engaging in prostitution in New Zealand do so willingly appears to underpin official policy and programs, and has inhibited public discussion and examination of indications that trafficking exists within both the decriminalized and illegal sex industries. New Zealand remained active in international efforts to monitor and prevent trafficking. Its foreign assistance agency provided substantial funding to countries and organizations to build countries’ anti-trafficking capacity, to prevent trafficking, and to provide services to victims. New Zealand emphasized its laws on child sex tourism, which apply extraterritorially, on its travel webpage. The government provided anti-trafficking training to military personnel assigned to international peacekeeping missions prior to their deployment. There were no reports of New Zealand peacekeeping personnel involved in trafficking or exploiting trafficking victims during the year.