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Thursday, April 22, 2021

No evidence of trafficking in case of deportation of Chinese men, immigration minister says

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Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said he was assured the 10 men threatened with deportation to China had been granted their rights.

Minister of Immigration Kris Faafoi.
Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Two of the 10 men – who officials said were working illegally on construction sites in Auckland – are due to be kicked out at 11 p.m. tonight – and a few more next week, according to their lawyer.

Green MP Ricardo Menendez-March, who was part of a delegation to visit the men today, wants deportations to be suspended to allow an investigation into allegations of exploitation of migrants and human trafficking.

But Faafoi said he was assured the proper processes were being followed and that Immigration had found no evidence of trafficking.

In a statement, Faafoi said: “We have been assured that the proper processes have been followed and Immigration NZ has not found any evidence of trafficking. Agencies are happy with new employment surveys and immigration violations can be carried out without men needing men. stay in New Zealand “.

The ministers did not get involved in law enforcement and it was an operational matter, he said.

However, Matt Robson, the lawyer for the Chinese workers, said they could not be deported until a full investigation was carried out.

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Robson visited the men at Mt Eden Prison with Menendez-March and representatives from Unite Union today. Nine are said to be held in prison and one in police custody.

Speaking outside the prison, Robson said the men were trafficked after paying between $ 10,000 and $ 30,000 to a third party who organized the travel and work.

The men did not have contracts and some were paid between $ 8 and $ 10 an hour, and the exploitation was evident.

“If I were one of the employers involved, I will laugh now that New Zealand Immigration is doing my job to get rid of the witnesses,” Robson said.

Some of the men got visitor visas in just two days and Robson wondered why visas were apparently being granted at lightning speed.

Third parties in China and New Zealand were involved and an investigation was needed, Robson said.

“Government policy on the exploitation of migrants is very clear. We are targeting the perpetrators of trafficking and exploitation, not the victims. The Cabinet manual says that if you are a minister, you must follow government policy. must act in the public interest, and you cannot escape the law and politics. Our Minister of Immigration is currently absent. “

Robson said they were allowed to enter Mount Eden for two hours on Sunday and only one hour today with a Union Unite interpreter. It was far too little time to get adequate information from the nine men, Robson said.

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He called for the release of the men, and said they would have to receive visas to stay for an investigation to take place.

Menendez-March was concerned for the well-being of the men after meeting them and said the two men who were due to leave tonight did not know.

“The clear indication from the majority is that not only do they feel incredibly stressed, but within the corrections they have not had access to interpretation, which is concerning for their own good. -be, ”said Menendez-March.

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Since the men have reported that they have been exploited, a full investigation is needed, he said.

Deporting them was against New Zealand Immigration rule to encourage people facing exploitation to speak out and a signal had to be sent, he said.

Unite Union defender Mike Treen said he was disappointed by claims the men were not properly represented. His union was prepared to take the men into custody if they could be released.

“If they are released, we can find them housing, we can find them work if they are allowed to work and we can help the government and the agencies to denounce the network that allows this human trafficking to go on. happen, ”he said.

New Zealand Deputy Director of Immigration Stephen Vaughan said his department had secured warrants to hire a district court judge for the 10 men.

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<< INZ can provide assurance that all persons have been informed of their rights to be represented by a lawyer while in the custody of INZ, both at the time of their detention and during their transfer to police custody. . The workers all had access to duty counsel and interpreter at the engagement hearing, ”Vaughan said.

“No breach of labor standards has been identified to date, but the investigation is in its early stages and if breaches are identified, the Labor Inspectorate will support the INZ investigation. INZ continues to search for possible violations of immigration law, while the Labor Inspectorate will investigate all possible violations of employment standards. “

A spokesperson for corrections said the men were allowed access to calls and interpreters.

“Men are allowed to access as many calls as can be facilitated by the staff. Correctional staff worked with the men to facilitate phone calls but were unable to contact all of the numbers provided.

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“There are four staff members based in the accommodation where the fluent Mandarin-speaking men are located, and several more on site. Since their arrival, these staff have been working closely with the men to translate and explain their management in the prison. . “

He said reports that Correctional Service ignored requests for a legal representative to visit the men was incorrect as it facilitated visitation requests on Sunday and today.

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