Speech to the launch of STOP THE TRAFFIK Aotearoa New Zealand

  • Nathan Guy

I am pleased to attend the launch today of STOP THE TRAFFIK Aotearoa New Zealand.

This newly formed network shows a commitment to effective, coordinated anti-trafficking efforts by NGOs, service providers and other interested parties.

People trafficking is an abhorrent crime. It is also very distinct from people smuggling. People smuggling is voluntary illegal migration. It is a violation of nation’s borders.

People trafficking, on the other hand, involves the forced exploitation of men, women and children. It is a gross violation of human rights.

While New Zealand’s exposure to people trafficking has been limited because of our geographic isolation, our country is not complacent. The Government has released a Plan of Action to Prevent People Trafficking that outlines measures we are taking to prevent and detect this crime.

The Plan of Action was developed with combined efforts of the Inter-agency Working Group on People Trafficking and advocacy of interested non-government organisations. This collective approach is essential to ensure initiatives to tackle trafficking crimes are well coordinated and effective.

The Plan of Action is based on “three Ps”, traditionally regarded as the three key principles in combating people trafficking crimes. These are:

  • PREVENTIONof trafficking through education, public awareness, research, and training
  • PROTECTION of victims through understanding and providing supports that address their specific needs
  • PROSECUTION of offenders through legislation and support for law enforcement and aids for witness testimony.

These same three principles are reflected in the objectives of STOP THE TRAFFIK.

There is now a fourth “P” – PARTNERSHIPS. That is, promoting partnerships across all levels - local, regional, national and international - involving both government and non-government organisations.

New Zealand recognises the important role that non-governmental organisations play in fighting people trafficking crimes and protecting victims. Their frontline staff are just as, if not more likely to encounter trafficking victims as government officials.

International reports indicate that victims of trafficking often have an inherent distrust of the authorities due to corruption experienced in their own countries. Often they are in the country unlawfully as well, so they are more likely to approach NGOs and other service providers for help rather than government officials.

It is therefore essential NGO staff and service providers know how to recognise  the warning signs and can identify possible victims.  For this reason the Department of Labour has undertaken to develop anti-trafficking training material, in conjunction with NGOs, which will be made publicly available once complete.

We want to make it clear that the New Zealand Police and Immigration New Zealand are here to protect, not punish people who come forward for help.

All victims of trafficking crimes will be protected, regardless of whether they are in the country lawfully or not, and shouldn’t hesitate to contact the police.

Secondly, if you need help, or know of someone who may need help contact your local Police.

Trafficking is often difficult to recognise in the field, because of cultural and language barriers and reluctance to seek help from authorities.

Victims may also feel shame and fear stigmatism, especially those trafficked for sexual exploitation.

This is why we must put in place measures to proactively detect and investigate any suspicious activity.

And lastly, the New Zealand Government is committed to ensuring that workers are not exploited and human rights are protected at all times.

Traffickers may threaten victims or their families with violence, jail-time or deportation to make them comply.

This makes them very unlikely to seek help and extremely vulnerable to continued exploitation.

There are great opportunities for networks such as STOP THE TRAFFIK to raise awareness on ways for possible victims to seek help.

New Zealand recognises this is a challenge that we must tackle in a coordinated manner in order to be more effective. This is why we cooperate with our regional neighbours. 

An example of this is the joint statement to combat people trafficking in the Pacific, which I signed with the US Secretary of Homeland Security last month. This joint statement builds on a strong partnership and commitment of both countries to prevent and combat people trafficking.

We are committed to working jointly with the US, and strengthening our efforts to tackle this terrible crime.

This reflects the goals in New Zealand’s own Plan of Action, in which we have committed to help developing countries with their own initiatives.

In practical terms, this includes managing and delivering capacity-building projects in the Pacific region. For example, New Zealand currently delivers training to nine Pacific Island countries to help build their capability in identity management services. This will help to identify potential victims of people trafficking.

Another example is the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime, of which New Zealand actively participates with 44 other member countries.

The Bali Process brings together countries to work on practical measures to improve the cooperation between nations.

I want to finish by reinforcing that people trafficking is abhorrent and unacceptable, and the New Zealand Government is fully committed to working with you to tackle this crime.

Thank you.