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Government Releases New Plan On Modern Slavery: A Good Start But More Concrete Action Needed


The Human Trafficking Research Coalition is glad to see
the government taking a stronger stand in addressing modern
slavery. But the Coalition’s spokesperson, Selwyn Coles,
insists “the Government’s new plan falls well short of
what is needed to meet the realities of modern slavery,
trafficking and exploitation within New Zealand shores, and
New Zealand supply chains”.

The Minister, Hon
Michael Wood, released the new all-of-government ‘Plan of
Action against Forced Labour, People Trafficking and
Slavery’ at a recent Wellington conference on worker
exploitation and modern slavery. The conference was called
Tango i te Kaupae Muri— Take the Next Step. The Coalition
— a collaboration of five charitable organisations with
deep expertise on these issues — agrees the plan is in
some ways “a step in the right direction”.

“It
is good to see the government investing more resources and
attention into a range of tools for more effective victim
identification, and strengthening the framework for
enforcement and prosecution”.

Yet Coles says this
refresh of the government’s strategy, which was last
updated in 2009, still underplays the extent of the issues
in New Zealand, and the need for a more comprehensive
response.

“Modern slavery is not only a grave human
rights priority globally, but needs to be a priority here in
Aotearoa as well”, says Coles. “Research sponsored by
the Coalition exposed extensive exploitation across numerous
industries in New Zealand, particularly amongst migrant
workers”. That ground-breaking research was conducted by
Dr Christina Stringer of the University of Auckland in 2016,
based on 100 interviews with (mostly) migrant
workers.

The Coalition acknowledges we do not know the
exact extent of the issues in New Zealand. But according to
Coles, “we are likely only seeing the tip of the
iceberg”.

“We are pleased the government has now
committed to what the Coalition has long been asking for:
more extensive government-funded research”. The Coalition
believes this should include active monitoring of industries
where exploitation is known to occur, including hearing from
the voices of victims/survivors.

The Coalition is
concerned too about exploitation occurring with the supply
chains of New Zealand companies, and even the Government’s
supply chains as well.

The Government reaffirmed its
commitment to considering modern slavery legislation
requiring companies to be transparent and accountable about
their supply chains. The government’s plan refers to the
UK and Australia where such legislation is already in
place.

“While this formal commitment is unchanged
from the 2009 plan, the government sounded positive and
proactive about moving forward on this. But it is now time
for concrete action,” says Coles.

The Coalition is
also critical that the government’s plan mentions children
only minimally, when we know that for every 10 trafficking
victims detected globally, about five are adult women and
two are girls. In NZ our ‘team of 5 million’ includes
1.18 million children and young people under the age of 18,
so children should feature more prominently in this plan if
we want to protect our tamariki.

To put children
squarely in the radar, the Coalition is currently
undertaking research into the discrepancies between the
definition of child trafficking in the relevant
international conventions and its definition in New
Zealand.

“The government’s plan also currently
focuses predominantly on labour trafficking and still does
not adequately include other forms of modern slavery such as
sexual exploitation”, says Coles. Gender is a factor
contributing to vulnerability, with women and girls
comprising over 71 percent of global trafficking victims.
“We need to see some tangible commitments from the
government to resourcing this important work”.

The
Coalition

The
Coalition
was founded in 2013 in response to the
under-recognised prevalence of human trafficking and
exploitation within New Zealand. It has brought together
World Vision, Tearfund, Hagar, ECPAT Child Alert, and The
Préscha Initiative in an effort to tackle modern slavery in
New Zealand.

Website: https://www.workerexploitation.com/

 

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