Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2018, 17:46 GMT

2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - New Zealand

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 27 June 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - New Zealand, 27 June 2011, available at: [accessed 20 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

New Zealand (Tier 1)

New Zealand is a source country for underage girls subjected to sex trafficking within the country, and a destination country for foreign men and women in forced labor. New Zealand is reportedly a destination country for women from Asian countries, such as Hong Kong, Thailand, Taiwan, and China, and Eastern Europe trafficked into forced prostitution, though no new substantive information about such cases was discovered in the past year. According to a press report during the year, women, including some from Malaysia, are recruited by labor agents, but upon arrival in New Zealand, are handed over to brothel owners, who confiscate their passports and force them into prostitution for up to 18 hours a day to repay the "loan" of recruitment and transportation costs. Child trafficking victims are found engaging in prostitution illegally in brothels and off the street, some being closely controlled by local gangs. 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 foreign workers report being charged excessive and escalating recruitment fees, experiencing unjustified salary deductions, restrictions on their movement, confiscation of passports, and altered contracts or working conditions without their permission – all indicators of human trafficking. According to a press report and the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on human trafficking, there were concerns that some fishermen from Indonesia, Vietnam, and elsewhere in Southeast Asia are allegedly victims of forced labor in New Zealand waters; these men may have experienced conditions including passport confiscation, significant debts, physical violence and abuse, and are often forced to work a seven-day work week. No independent 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. The government has in the past prosecuted traffickers under a range of laws; however, the government did not prosecute or convict any offenders of trafficking during the year, nor did it identify or assist any trafficking victims during the reporting period. The government did, however, make efforts during the year to raise public awareness of human trafficking through an anti-trafficking website and trafficking brochures.

Recommendations for New Zealand: Make efforts to study sex and labor trafficking occurring in New Zealand; significantly increase efforts to investigate and prosecute both sex and labor trafficking offenders; make efforts to proactively screen vulnerable populations, including women in prostitution, foreign workers, and illegal migrants, in order to identify and assist trafficking victims, through the routine employment of formal victim identification measures; identify and assist child trafficking victims engaged in commercial sexual activity; make proactive efforts to identify victims of labor trafficking, particularly among populations of vulnerable foreign laborers; investigate and prosecute employment recruiting agencies or employers who subject foreign workers to involuntary servitude or debt bondage; and develop and implement a visible anti-trafficking awareness campaign directed at clients of the legal and illegal sex trades.


The Government of New Zealand continued efforts to train front-line officers on trafficking, but did not make overall progress in its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the past year. Authorities did not arrest or prosecute any sex or labor trafficking offenders during the past year, nor did it cooperate on any international trafficking investigations. The police did not report any prosecutions of "sellers" of sex services who profited from the labor of children in prostitution. New Zealand does not have a comprehensive anti-trafficking law and the Government of New Zealand does not feel that such a law is necessary, relying instead on a definition of trafficking that focuses on the transnational movement of people in prostitution. Part 5 and various amendments of the Crimes Act of 1961 prohibit transnational sex and labor trafficking. Laws against sexual slavery, the receipt of financial gain from exploiting children in prostitution, and labor exploitation prohibit forms of internal trafficking. Such crimes are not specifically included within the anti-trafficking provisions of the Crimes Act and therefore cases of internal trafficking are not recognized or tracked by the government as trafficking crimes. A press report during the year described cases of Asian women who were victims of forced prostitution in New Zealand, including a case of a Malaysian woman reportedly forced into prostitution for 16 hours a day who had her passport confiscated by the brothel owner. Authorities reported an initial investigation but the woman departed the country immediately upon having her passport returned to her, after police intervention. The Department of Labor investigated this case and reported that the woman was interviewed and found to be working willingly. The government trained staff from Customs, Immigration, Labor, and Police on People Trafficking on identifying victims of trafficking and victim interview techniques. Compliance inspectors who inspect sex industry premises use interview templates to determine whether individuals are willingly and voluntarily in New Zealand's legal sex industry; the template has questions related to trafficking indicators.


The Government of New Zealand offers an extensive network of protective services to both internal and transnational trafficking victims, regardless of whether they are officially recognized as trafficking victims. The government, however, did not report identifying or assisting any trafficking victims during the year, despite reports of children exploited in the commercial sex trade and foreign workers subjected to passport confiscation, debt bondage, threats of financial harm, and other internationally-recognized indicators of forced labor. The government did not have formal procedures for referring victims to NGOs and service providers. Authorities did not report the number of children under 18 found to be in prostitution during the year. Press reporting indicated authorities identified at least 13 girls under the age of 16 in prostitution in Auckland and put them in Child, Youth, and Family custody, but the government asserted that children under 18 identified in prostitution were not victims of trafficking, as they did not cross an international border and were not compelled into prostitution. There are currently no shelters specifically dedicated to trafficking victims. Authorities reported that were they to be identified, victims would receive food and shelter and would be informed of available physical and mental health services, legal services, and social welfare. The law allows foreign victims temporary legal residence and relief from prosecution for immigration offenses. However, as the government claims to have never identified a trafficking victim, this provision has never been offered. The Department of Labor developed a policy to allow police-certified trafficking victims, were they to be identified, to remain in New Zealand and work for up to one year on a temporary visa; however, this provision has never been utilized. It is possible that trafficking victims were deported as immigration violators instead of being investigated as possible trafficking victims.


The Government of New Zealand made some efforts to increase public awareness of trafficking during the year. The Ministry of Social Development distributed brochures on trafficking indicators in six languages to regional departments, who distributed them to community groups around the country. In June 2010, the Department of Labor partnered with ECPAT to convene a forum on trafficking for representatives from government agencies and non-government organizations. Fraudulent employment and recruiting practices are prohibited under the Crimes Act of 1961 and the Wages Protection Act of 1983. New Zealand has never prosecuted trafficking offenders under these laws. Sufficiently stringent penalties of up to 20 years' imprisonment and/or a fine of $250,000 under the above statutes are commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes. The Immigration Act prohibits retention or control of a person's passport or any other travel or identity document, but there were no prosecutions for passport confiscation during the year. During the year, the Department of Labor launched an anti-trafficking Internet website to raise awareness of trafficking. The government's Inter-Agency Working Group on trafficking, led by the Department of Labor, met once during the year. The government did not make efforts to address the demand for commercial sex acts in the decriminalized commercial sex industry. The government gave $22,800 to ECPAT to raise awareness about child sex trafficking. The Department of Labor reported over 1,500 labor inspection visits during the year – an increase over the previous year, including 424 compliance inspections of horticulture and viniculture businesses. It did not report the number of brothel compliance inspections conducted during the year. In August 2010, authorities arrested one New Zealand citizen for organizing and promoting child sex tours; his case remains pending. The government provided anti-trafficking training to military personnel prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.

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