U.S. State Department Accuses NZ of 'Not Prosecuting Human Trafficking'
By Reissa Su | June 23, 2014 6:04 PM EST
New Zealand's Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse has brushed off a U.S. State Department report accusing the country of rampant human trafficking.
New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key speaks at a luncheon in Sydney February 7, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Brendon Thorne/Pool
Woodhouse said investigations did not yield concrete evidence of foreigners being subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking in New Zealand. In the U.S. Trafficking in Persons 2014 Report released on June 23, the New Zealand was accused of not prosecuting human trafficking cases in the past 8 years.
The report slammed New Zealand for not having a comprehensive anti-trafficking law. The U.S. State Department recommended the country to expand its laws "to punish all forms of human trafficking."
The minister said the New Zealand government has taken a strong stance against trafficking insisting the country has "stringent" laws against it, including penalties comparable to rape or homicide. The punishment indicates how the country views the seriousness of trafficking.
He added the new legislation was "in the pipeline" to enable further action if more evidence of trafficking will come up. According to the U.S. report, islanders from Asia and the Pacific who have migrated to New Zealand were being subjected to forced labor and often charged with highly excessive recruitment fees, underpayment of wages and passport confiscations.
The U.S. State Department also revealed foreign women from China and Southeast Asia were forced to enter prostitution in New Zealand.
According to Woodhouse, the alleged human trafficking cases were being investigated but none has showed any concrete evidence. Aside from the reportedly rising number of human trafficking incidents in New Zealand, desperate asylum seekers have targeted the country as their ticket to pursue a better life.
People smuggling has been ongoing for years but the danger has escalated and became immeasurably dangerous, according to reports.
Asylum seekers are seen as a mix of Indians, Pakistanis, Afghans and Bangladeshis. They had no intention of traveling to Christmas Island but were prepared to go on a journey across one of the world's most dangerous oceans to reach New Zealand.
Under the country's immigration laws, asylum seekers who arrive in large groups will be detained for up to 6 months.
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