A senior United States government official claims underage girls are subjected to sex trafficking and migrants trapped into forced labour here, and describes New Zealand’s way of defining human trafficking as “misplaced”. Immigration New Zealand is maintaining there are no substantiated cases of people trafficking here because those crossing the border who come here to work in the sex trade or do manual labour are not being forced into doing so. Unlike many countries, New Zealand does not recognise domestic cases as trafficking. “Such a focus on initial consent is misplaced,” said Mr Luis Cdebaca, who was appointed by US President Barack Obama to direct the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the Department of State. He serves as senior adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and was in New Zealand this year to study trafficking here. “Whether a person migrated for a particular job or participated in an activity willingly is legally irrelevant under the UN Trafficking Protocol if they are subsequently kept in the service through force, threats, or psychological manipulation,” he said.
Last year a sex worker who came on a visitor’s visa told another prostitute at a central Auckland brothel where she worked that she had been made to work 16-hour shifts with few breaks. Another sex worker who was lured here with a $4500 cash offer plus airfares was later told it was a loan she had to repay. Both women had their passports taken away from them, and in one case the police had to be called in to retrieve the passport from the brothel owner. But under New Zealand’s definition, these did not constitute human trafficking.