Tuesday, July 26, 2011

[pima.nius] US concerns over NZ Pacific worker scheme

2:04 PM |

US concerns over NZ Pacific worker scheme

Updated July 26, 2011 09:06:51

The US State Department is standing by reports criticising New Zealand's seasonal worker scheme for Pacific islanders.

The New Zealand press earlier cited unnamed sources saying senior US officials are concerned the scheme is verging on human trafficking and debt-bonded labour.

The New Zealand scheme takes in workers from Tonga, Samoa, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands to work in the horticulture industry.

A Ni-Vanuatu seasonal labour recruiter for both New Zealand and Australia has come out strongly to defence of these schemes, saying they are well regulated and beneficial to all parties concerned.

But a senior US State Department official says abuses do happen in countries where there's temporary worker schemes including New Zealand.

Ambassador Luis CdeBaca heads the US State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and was part of the delegation to New Zealand.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts
Speaker: Luis CdeBaca heads, US State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons

CDEBACA: Every year as far as the US government's annual report we look at government sources, we look at civil society, we look at the press, all of those things taken together to be able to take a snapshot of the human trafficking situation in a particular country. And one of the things that seems to be coming up a lot there in New Zealand, as in most countries that have temporary worker schemes, is the fact that there are certainly the warning signs of abuse and in fact allegations of abuse in a number of different sectors.

COUTTS: So it's your own researchers that are making these claims?

CDEBACA: As I said a combination of civil society, academics, NGOs and even government and media.

COUTTS: Well the reason I repeated the claim is, is because it seems to be a body of people now claiming the same thing, to support the claim I mean?

CDEBACA: Right any time that we've looked at a particular temporary worker scheme, including here in the United States, that does not have a robust system of monitoring that to make sure that you don't have abuse, enslavement and exploitation. We tend to see that abuse of bosses will hold their workers through some sort of coercion. And we've seen that not simply in the New Zealand narrative this year, but we've seen that across the ASEAN region, across the Pacific, and in most regions of the world.

COUTTS: Are you able to give specific examples that your researchers and NGOs have cited about the worker scheme in New Zealand that gives cause for concern?

CDEBACA: Well it is reflected in the official report that came out about three weeks ago. One of the things that we've seen is in the agricultural sector, whether it's in horticulture or dairy or other situations, the notion of people having to seek out loans, having to come to New Zealand as already owing a lot of money, whether it's back home or to the people they're going to be working for, and then unable to leave because of the situation of debt bondage and exploitation.

COUTTS: But why does it get into the human trafficking realm rather than just a bad business deal?

CDEBACA: Well a bad business deal certainly but at the end of the day if someone is not free to leave their workplace because they're being held through some form of coercion, that's not bad business practice, that's slavery. And every country in the world has a responsibility under the universal declaration of human rights, as well as the United Nations trafficking protocol from the year 2000, which New Zealand is a signatory to, to fight against that, again not as a labour practice, but to confront the slavery and exploitation. And one of the places that we've seen that and that we're very concerned about that's been getting a lot of coverage in the New Zealand press over the last few weeks, is the situation and the men from Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia who are ending up being abused on the fishing boats that are with official New Zealand quotas to fish to the south of New Zealand itself. That fish ends up being stamped made in New Zealand, but many of the things that are being reported and that we're hearing from researchers indicates that the men who caught and processed that fish were being abused when they were doing it.

COUTTS: But anyone who owes money in a particular country isn't free to leave until they pay that debt, are they?

CDEBACA: Well the remedy for that wouldn't be debtors prison or enslavement, it would be taking them to court for the money they owe you. Indentured service was something that was made illegal, not just in the United States, but in all parts of the Commonwealth a long time ago. We all certainly work under the need to work, everybody needs to work, everybody has debts that they owe, but the notion that a boss could then use that debt to prevent you from having free movement in and out of that worksite, whether that's a farm, whether that's a ship, that's something that we put behind us along time ago.

COUTTS: How many people are caught up in what you describe as the slave trade or debt bonded labour?

CDEBACA: Well the best estimate that's out there right now is by Anti-Slavery International and their subsidiary, Free the Slaves, and Anti-Slavery International is actually the same organisation that Wilbur Force and others worked with in the 1820s to abolish the legal slave trade in the British Empire. It's the oldest non-government organisation in the world, and the numbers that they've looked at through their research is up to 27-million people in bondage in the world today around the world, and that's everything from somebody who might be held as a domestic servant in London city itself, to the many, many bonded labourers in South Asia who are on the farms that their ancestors worked. So slavery unfortunately is not a thing of the past.

COUTTS: Well what about in New Zealand, their seasonal worker scheme, what percentage of them would be caught up in something like that?

CDEBACA: I wouldn't speculate as to that.

COUTTS: Now some of these people who are in charge of running the scheme claim that the scheme is being misunderstood and it isn't a human trafficking scheme. Is that possible?

CDEBACA: Well we certainly in our report are not saying that the scheme itself is inherently a situation of debt bondage or of human trafficking, but within any legal recruitment scheme there will be unfortunately the possibility that human traffickers and exploitative bosses will take advantage of the vulnerabilities of their workers. But the number one thing to take away from our report and from the cases that are being done in countries around the world who recognise that these schemes are not themselves sufficient to protect the workers, is that human trafficking is not just about illegal migration, often the human trafficking victims came into the country under a very legal and above board temporary work scheme, it's just that they have the misfortune of being recruited by or employed by someone who is going to pervert that scheme and use it as a manner of enslavement.

COUTTS: Well what are your recommendations for these schemes to avoid this kind of othing happening?

CDEBACA: Well I think that one of the things that we've seen in New Zealand is the need for more pro-active screening of these vulnerable populations. But at the end of the day New Zealand needs to join Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada in having a human trafficking law, a human trafficking definition that focuses not upon the movement of someone across an international border for prostitution, which was certainly the case in the British Empire going back to 1880, but instead needs to look at the modern concept of human trafficking, focussing upon the exploitation and the enslavement of the workers. Only when that type of a legal change occurs and it gets built into that particular scheme will we see the legal tools for the police and others to go after these abusive employers.

COUTTS: Well what kind of screening needs to take place, because in Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Tonga, the countries that are taking part in these schemes, they're fairly poor people, which is why they're undertaking it, so are you suggesting they need to have more money behind them?

CDEBACA: Well the problem is if you have more money behind them then that's probably going to have been actually borrowed from someone and they might be more vulnerable. One of the things that we've done now in the US is that anybody who comes into the US on one of our temporary employment schemes has to review materials about exploitation and human trafficking before they get their visa, and then once they get here, if there is a problem God forbid, they have the phone number, they have something that's told them what their rights are here in the United States. In other words they're not just isolated, they're not out on a farm totally by themselves. They actually have been given something before they've even travelled saying here's what to do if again God forbid, you find yourself with an employer who's not everything that he had represented himself to be.


--
----------------------------------------
pacific islands media association
pima.nius@gmail.com
aotearoa, new zealand
----------------------------------------
The pima.nius googlegroup is a facility for discussion and distributing information regarding the Pacific Islands Media Association (PIMA). Content sent by this googlegroup are forwarded from various networks and media publications to keep you informed about aspects of the media industry. 

These emails are unedited and discussions made through this googlegroup are unmoderated. Announcements made through this googlegroup do not constitute endorsement for the organisations, individuals or opinions featured. Please check the integrity of organisations and individuals before exchanging personal information with them. 

--
----------------------------------------
pacific islands media association
pima.nius@gmail.com
aotearoa, new zealand
----------------------------------------
The pima.nius googlegroup is a facility for discussion and distributing information. Content sent by this googlegroup are forwarded from various networks and media publications.
 
DISCLAIMER: These emails are unedited and discussions made through this googlegroup are unmoderated. Announcements made through this googlegroup do not constitute endorsement for the organisations, individuals or opinions featured. Please check the integrity of organisations and individuals before exchanging personal information with them.
 
- - - - - - - - -
comment here:
http://groups.google.com/group/pima-nius/topics?hl=en
 
send an email comment here:
pima-nius@googlegroups.com
 
unsubscribe:
pima-nius+unsubscribe@googlegroups.com
 
more options
http://groups.google.com/group/pima-nius?hl=en?hl=en
 
- - - - - - - - -

0 comments: